Cranberry Sauce

A bit of history first …

For Canadian immigrants in the 60’s, assimilation was the goal.

The ‘melting pot’ was a thing, and my brother and I adopted the Canadian life style with enthusiasm. So, a traditional Thanksgiving meal was one of the must have’s at our house.

Pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce weren’t a priority but the big turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy were front and center on our table. Stuffing … well my mom combined cooked rice, toasted and seasoned bread, sauteed onion and celery, turkey broth and turkey giblets into a dish that was the first thing I put on my plate. I even make it occasionally now that I’m doing all the cooking.

I think my mom must have bought canned cranberry sauce at some point. But I don’t remember. What I DO remember is that my nephew, a picky eater, HAD to have traditional jelly cranberry sauce. My SIL, may have even brought the can to our house to make sure that there were no tantrums in those early days. Watching that solid mass SLIDE out was a vivid memory. When they took leftovers home, the cranberry sauce was always included because no one at OUR house was a big fan.

Fast forward to the present and at the age of 61, I made my first batch of cranberry sauce, with whole berries.

Cranberry sauce

Cranberry Sauce – makes ~ 3 cups

12 oz/ 340 gm cranberries
1 cup white sugar
1 cup orange juice (or 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup orange juice)
1 tbsp of orange zest

In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the orange juice. Stir in the cranberries and cook until the cranberries start to pop (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat, stir in the orange zest and place sauce in a bowl.

Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.

And you know what?

It’s pretty tasty.

Uses for leftover cranberry sauce

Yogurt and cranberry sauce – if you like fruit flavoured yogurt for breakfast, stir as much of the cranberry sauce as you like into some drained yogurt and dig in

A moist and tender batch of Yogurt & Cranberry muffins, from “Cook the Story”. Instead of the large size that the recipe suggested, I made a dozen medium sized muffins and used the rest of the batter to make a tray that can be cut into bars. For serving, I stirred some cranberry sauce into sweetened whipped cream.

Maybe I should try making a pumpkin pie next year.

A leftover meal that’s even better than the original … turkey drumstick, blue cheese polenta, giblet gravy, sauteed kale

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It’s Turkey Time Again … Thanksgiving 2017

Happy Thanksgiving, 2017!

 

And, of course, dessert … cream puffs. I didn’t bother with any icing sugar etc. Just dived in.

PS: I made cranberry sauce but forgot to serve it with the meal. I’ll show you what I’m going to do with the rest of it later.

Turkey is something that I only cook a couple of times a year. Not because I don’t like it but because I buy a frozen 12-14 lb turkey, when it’s on sale, and for a single person, using up leftovers is even more challenging than for small families since I have to cook it all at once.

Turkey thawed and ready for butchering

Spatch-cocking is a good way to cut down on uneven turkey roasting. And removing the legs means when the breast is done, you can take it out of the oven, cover with foil and continue roasting the legs until they’re done.

Turkey Breast – nice and moist, 2 hrs at 350 deg F

Drumsticks

Turkey Thighs – skinned, de-boned, cut into big chunks and ground up in a food processor while still slightly frozen … or at least chilly

Turkey Tacos – Half a diced onion was sauteed in oil and/or schmaltz (chicken fat), then the ground turkey meat (~710 gm) was added and cooked until no longer pink. I added 1 tbsp of taco seasoning for every 454 g of meat and cooked it all for a few more minutes. The cooked meat mixture can be used for taco bowls or lettuce wraps.

Tocană or What’s in a Name?

I remember my mom making a lot of stews when I was growing up because she could use ‘filler’ vegetables, especially potatoes, to stretch a small amount of meat to feed a hungry family of four, with lots of leftovers. Tocană was the word she used instead of stew, however, because, like many immigrants, she interspersed her English with a lot of Romanian words. I was never quite sure what they meant, and, sadly, didn’t always ask, but I managed to figure out the meaning of most of the words, in the context in which they were used.

PS: ‘Zamaă (zeamă)‘ was another tricky Romanian word, which meant ‘soup’, but seemed stew-like to me. Amusingly, in later years, the word ‘soupă’ became part of our family lexicon. And then there were ‘ciorbă’ and ‘bors’ which are types of soups. I may go into that in a future post.

When my brother married a Canadian-born Hungarian girl, she brought other food words into our conversations. Some were very familiar. Like ‘tokány’ which was similar enough to the Romanian word for a stew. But ‘porkolt‘ also refers to a stew. As does ‘paprikash’.

Porkolt, paprikash, and tokany … makes your head spin, doesn’t it? And then there’s ‘goulash’ which can be a soup OR a stew. But I won’t get into that in this post.

Romanian cooking terms almost seem easy in comparison. At least to me, they do.

Romanian pork stew with cornmeal mush and a fried egg

In my recent internet searches, I’ve learned that tocană ‘usually’ refers to a mutton/lamb stew. But my mom has never liked mutton so her tocană was usually made with pork, which seems to be the go-to Romanian meat. Beef was very rarely served at our house as it was not something my mom was that comfortable cooking, to be honest. (You do NOT want to know how she cooked a frozen t-bone steak.)

Anyway, getting back to the tocană, I debated on making a chicken (pui/gaina refering to a chicken/hen) or even a mushroom stew, but I settled for what I felt most comfortable cooking … a pork stew or ‘tocană cu carne de porc’.

One final language aside. Tocană is what you get in a restaurant. Tocăniță (the diminutive form, like saying ‘little tocană’)  is what your mom makes at home … with love.

Romanian pork stew with mashed potatoes

Tocăniță cu carne de porc (Romanian Pork Stew) – serves 3-4

600 gm pork, neck preferred but a boneless pork loin* works as well
2 tbsp finely diced pork fat or vegetable oil
1 large onion, small dice
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 medium carrot, small dice**
1/2 medium sweet pepper (red, yellow or orange), small dice**
1/2 cup chicken stock or water, more water as needed
1 tbsp sweet pepper paste or 1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 teaspoon hot pepper paste or harissa or gochujang
1/2 teaspoon dried summer savoury or thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt, to start
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Optional: 3-4 small potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

Garnish: 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves

* As my pork loin was pretty lean, I added about 2 tbsp of finely chopped pork fat trimmed from a pork shoulder, after I had seared it for red chile pulled pork

** This dish was often made in the winter when fresh vegetables weren’t available. Frugal housewives would dry and coarsely grind up various vegetables and use them in their soups and stews. If you have access to a dry vegetable soup mix, use 1-2 tsp, I used the carrots and sweet peppers instead.

Cut up the pork meat into 1/2-3/4 inch cubes.

In a dutch oven, over medium-high heat, render the fat and use it to fry the pork, for about 10 minutes or until it starts to brown. Remove the meat to a bowl and reserve.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and cook until it softens, about 10 minutes. Add the carrots and sweet peppers and the garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Add the thyme, sweet pepper paste and the hot pepper paste and stir into the vegetables. Cook for another minute or so to cook the ‘raw’ taste out of the spices and liven up the herbs.

Add the chicken stock and use it to scrape up the fond (browned bits of flavour) on the bottom of the dutch oven. Add the browned pork, salt and pepper and bring the mixture to a boil. Your meat and vegetables should be just barely covered by liquid. If needed add up to a cup of water, cover with the lid and cook for about 30 minutes at medium heat. Check the meat for tenderness. It should fall apart and the mixture should not be dry but there should be a ‘sauce’ surrounding the meat and vegetables. If needed add some more water and continue cooking the pork with the lid on.

If using potatoes, add the cubed potatoes at this point, another cup of water or as needed to cover the potatoes, and about 1/2 tsp more salt, put the lid back on and cook for an additional 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. If you like a bit more heat, add more hot pepper paste.

When ready, sprinkle fresh chopped parsley over the top of the stew.

Serve with cornmeal mush/polenta or mashed potatoes (mamaligă sau piure de cartofi) if not using potatoes in the stew. Slices of a crusty bread are a tasty accompaniment to sop up any extra juices.

For a one bowl meal, stir diced boiled potatoes into your finished pork stew. This gives you the option of serving the stew itself in various ways and stew without the potatoes freeze better as the thawed potatoes don’t get too mealy.

Sour Cream White Bread and Spaghetti Sauce

I wanted to make a white sandwich bread and picked this sour cream white bread recipe found on “The Spruce” web site for something that was a bit different.

Sour cream replaces the egg, milk and butter found in many enriched bread recipes. The resulting bread was nice and fluffy and tasted great either served as an accompaniment to a bowl of pasta or with jam as a snack.

The bread is meant to be baked in a 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan but the amount of dough I had (820 gm) seemed a bit excessive to me, so I made four (54 gm) buns with part of it. I didn’t bother using the egg white glaze suggested to give the loaf a glossy finish, though I did brush melted butter on the buns.

The dough rose beautifully during the bulk proofing in the oven with the light on, taking only one hour, and though my loaf shaping was a bit lacking, the final proofing took only 45 minutes and baked up golden brown. For some reason, I decided to slash the top of the loaf before baking but, obviously, I didn’t put my heart into the matter as the cut turned out pretty anemic.

 

 

The loaf pan was oiled and lined with a small sheet of parchment paper which made removing the finished loaf a breeze.

I didn’t want my buns to round up too much during proofing so I pressed them down after 15 min, as in my earlier hamburger buns, and let them continue proofing for another 30 minutes. I found the oven spring a bit disappointing though the crumb was nice.

While my bread was proofing, I made a quick batch of spaghetti sauce with a couple of 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes (with herbs and spices) and 4 hot Italian sausages. I doctored the sauce with some additional dried Italian herbs and hot pepper flakes and served them over ditali pasta. There was enough sauce for 2 two serving containers to be tucked away in the freezer for later. All in all, a very successful cooking day.

One-Banana Muffins

I have texture issues so when it comes to buying fruit to eat out of hand, bananas are NOT my first, or even fifth, choice. But for reasons that don’t warrant going into, I ended up with a single banana ripening on my counter.

I decided to make banana muffins so I googled for an appropriate one banana recipe.

Serenity Now‘s blog had what looked like the perfect recipe for me, but I made some changes.

Banana Muffins with One Banana – makes 1 dozen large muffins or 1 loaf of muffin bread

1 large, very ripe banana
1 cup regular white sugar
1 egg with enough milk to make 1 cup*
1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter, softened, or 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp vegetable oil, or 1/4 cup vegetable oil plus 2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda

* Add the egg and 2 tbsp sour cream to a measuring cup, and then enough milk to make 1 cup. Baking soda likes some acid to help it act in baking but since I didn’t have any yogurt, I used the sour cream.
** I was short of butter so I decided to replace it with vegetable oil. Since my banana wasn’t over ripe (I didn’t want to wait until the next day to make these), I replaced the additional 2 tbsp vegetable oil with maple syrup to sweeten the batter.

Optional add-ins: 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, 1/2 cup chocolate chips, a dash of cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a 12 large muffin tin with muffin/cupcake papers. (If making a loaf, butter the tin generously so it won’t stick.)

In a large mixing bowl, break up the peeled banana and cream with the sugar, using a hand blender, until the banana is pureed.

Add in the flour, baking soda, egg/milk mixture, oil (oil and maple syrup) and the vanilla extract and beat just until everything is just combined. (If including the cinnamon, add at this point as well.)

Fold in the nuts or chocolate chips and, using an ice cream scoop, fill the muffin tins.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the muffins comes out cleanly. This is a very liquid batter so the baking time is a bit longer than you might be used to. (I found that my chocolate chips all fell to the bottom, probably due to the density of the batter. Mini chocolate chips might be a better choice.)

NOTE: If baking in a loaf pan, you’ll need to bake this for 50-55 minutes depending on your oven.

Home Made Sushi featuring a Volcano Roll and a Red Dragon (sort of) Roll

I get periodic sushi cravings and try to shop appropriately for making it at home cause I’m trying to be financially responsible when it’s a choice between a tank of gas (or getting my grass cut) and going out for sushi.

I had bought an avocado a week (or more) ago, and I had a package of tempura shrimp in the freezer. I was going to make tempura shrimp onigiri, but … plans change.

I had good quality salmon in my freezer and decided to risk raw salmon rolls. When I cut into my avocado it was bruised and yucky. I couldn’t save any of it so it went into the garbage. Luckily, I bought a mesh bag of little avocados a few day ago so I cut into the ripest looking of the bunch.

After making four pretty boring regular rolls on Saturday: spicy raw salmon, spicy tempura shrimp, tamago (sweet omelet) and avocado, and baked teriyaki salmon and avocado, I challenged myself with two specialty rolls on Sunday.

Volcano Roll  – There are different kinds of volcano rolls depending on where you go. Classically, julienned cucumber sticks and cream cheese fill the rolls. Then, they’re sliced and topped with a mixture of mayonnaise, Sriracha and some sort of seafood. (I’ve had shredded fake crab legs but you can use diced raw shrimp, salmon and scallops, alone or in combination.) The topped rolls are placed in a toaster oven, or put under the broiler in your regular oven, until the topping is hot and bubbly and browned and the raw seafood is cooked. I’ve read that shrimp may take a bit longer to cook so you can partially saute them before adding them to the mixture. Or just use cooked and thawed shrimp.

Since I didn’t have any cream cheese and I don’t care for cucumber, I was going to use sliced avocado in my volcano roll filling. But I got distracted and used the strips of raw salmon that I was going to use in the red dragon roll. You can also use roasted asparagus, sweet potato or yam.

I didn’t have any fresh green onion to garnish with so I topped the roll with frozen sliced green onion before baking. A bit wilted but they gave the volcano rolls a nice look.

Red Dragon Roll – This is a roll within a roll. The red dragon roll I’ve had at my favourite sushi restaurant is an inside out roll filled with tempura shrimp, sliced avocado and julienned cucumber. Thin slices of raw salmon are overlapped over the top. The green dragon roll is covered with overlapping thin slices of avocado. There’s a rainbow roll which has alternating bands of salmon, sea bass (or white tuna) and avocado. The latter is my favourite but I didn’t have a second kind of raw fish so I stuck to the salmon. The filling was just sliced avocado.

 

Cover the roll with a sheet of plastic wrap and use your sushi rolling mat to press down and firm up the salmon covering.

Leave the plastic wrap on the roll and cut through it so you don’t mess up the salmon layer. Then, garnish with black sesame seeds or nigella seeds and volcano sauce (mayonnaise and Sriracha).

Old and New Meals, Again

Nothing too exciting happening in the kitchen. I made an attempt at a type of hand shaped pasta, called strascinati rigati, using a sushi rolling mat, but the results were a bit disappointing. Next time, I’d roll the pasta much thinner and cut smaller pieces for shaping. I’d also cook them fresh rather than drying them. Taste wise … well, it’s pasta with a home made marinara sauce. Tasty but nothing to write home about.

The pasta on the left was made only with all purpose flour while the pasta on the right used half fine ground semolina flour as well.

Once again, the freezer is providing the start of some great meals … leftover pork ribs (remember that blueberry bbq sauce) with purchased hash brown patties.

And pulled pork sandwiches with roasted potato wedges.

I had a sirloin steak in the freezer so I thawed it out, seared it in a cast iron frying pan and served it rare. Simple but delicious with mashed potatoes, carrots and salad. There was enough steak leftover for a steak sandwich too.

I had a bit of a chocolate craving so I whipped up some blender chocolate mousse/pot de creme, flavoured with orange liqueur (Cointreau), to pour into a couple of prebaked pastry shells from the freezer. I had visions of something like a chocolate cream pie but since the shells had shrunk so much, not much of the mousse fit into the shells. So, I poured most of the mousse into a couple of ramekins and topped them with a dollop of whipped cream.

I should have let the pies set a bit longer before cutting into them but I couldn’t wait. (Sorry for the poor lighting in the first picture.)

Salmon Filet – Portioning for Freezing

Recently, I picked up a whole fresh salmon filet at Costco and, when I got home, I portioned it up so I could freeze it for future meals. It wasn’t as pretty as this wild caught Canadian salmon, that I got for a crazy cheap price some years ago, but I cut it up the same way so I’m recycling pictures from an earlier post on LJ.

Here’s what I did with some of the Canadian salmon – teriyaki basted and baked buttery rich and tender salmon belly meat and crispy salmon skin. (Yes, teriyaki IS my favourite baste/glaze for salmon)

As for the butchering technique:

First, rinse off the filet and pat it dry with paper towels. It looks so lovely and red, doesn’t it? 🙂

Then, cut into the filet at the tail end, about 2-3 inches from the end. (My fridge was REALLY cold. You can see some shards of ice forming on top of the salmon.)

If you have a sharp knife, and are confident in your knife skills, you can hold on to the tail with a folded over paper towel and run a sharp knife between the flesh and skin from the tail to the head portion of the filet. However, once you make that first cut through to the skin and get about an inch under the flesh, you can remove the knife and use the back edge of your hand ‘in place of the knife’ to free the flesh from the skin while firmly holding on to the tail. There’s no risk of cutting the skin or hacking up the underside of the flesh if you use your hand. Which is what I did.

The result is a sheet of salmon skin, a cleaned filet and the couple of inches of salmon from the tail cut off the skin.

I flipped the cutting board around, trimmed the fatty belly meat off and then portioned the rest of the salmon into 7 portions. I used the width of 3 fingers as my portion guide. The weight of each portion ranged from 3-5 oz depending on the position on the filet.

The underside of the skinned salmon pieces

And, what I ended up with … wrapped for the future.

On the right, in the Ziploc container: 6 lovely salmon portions wrapped up in pairs of similar size and weight. On the left, in the smaller container: the scraps from the tail portion that I used to hold onto when I removed the skin from the rest of the filet, the next tail portion, and the belly meat cut into about 5 strips. The salmon skin was baked until crispy and served with seasoned seaweed.

Crispy Salmon Skin

salmon skin, no meat remaining
neutral vegetable or grapeseed oil
salt, as needed

Preheat the oven to 375 deg Farenheit.

Place a sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil brushed with oil on a baking sheet.

Cut the skin into approximately 2 by 3 inch portions. Use a pastry brush to brush both sides with oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Place on the baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, turning over the skin after 10 minutes. Remove the skin as it crisps up. Some pieces may be slightly thicker so may require an extra couple or three minutes. Transfer to a doubled sheet of paper towelling and let cool. Cut or break into shards and use as garnish.

Barbie’s Super Simple Oatmeal Cookies (with Coconut)

I enjoyed the taste of the last batch of oatmeal cookies that I made … but the ‘look’ didn’t thrill me.

These, on the other hand, are very photogenic. And they taste good as well. Not overly sweet … next time, I’d use half the amount of salt though cause the margarine, which I used instead of butter, was salty enough.

This recipe also came out of Edna Staebler’s “Cookies and Squares with Schmecks Appeal”. The kitchen was a bit warm for September (77 deg F) so, by the time I had mixed up the dough and started shaping it into 1 inch sized balls, my dough was pretty sticky. I persevered and then refrigerated the resulting cookie balls.

After 30 minutes, I used the back of a fork to press down gently on the cookie balls in order to flatten them and baked the cookies for 14 minutes, instead of the 12 minutes recommended, in a preheated 350 deg F oven. I left the baked cookies on the baking sheet to cool for about 10 minutes, before using a thin metal spatula to transfer them onto the cooling rack, to finish cooling.

Flavoured Sourdough Tortillas

I used to buy various flavoured tortillas … pesto and jalapeno cheddar come to mind, so a recent FB post which mentioned a rosemary olive oil tortilla inspired me to flavour my own home made sourdough flour tortillas. I was going to add dried rosemary to the sourdough tortilla dough but the jar of pesto, which caught my eye, when I opened the fridge door, led me in another direction.

Shiso pesto tortillas … one tablespoon of the vegetable oil was replaced with pesto.

For these sun-dried tomato tortillas, I pureed 2 tbsp of sun-dried tomatoes with the water in the recipe and added 1 tbsp of tomato paste for colour. A couple of pinches of sugar were added as well as I was afraid the tomatoes would be a bit … bitter. They were fine, by the way.

Other flavours I’m thinking of making one day … chipotle in adobo, roasted garlic, roasted red pepper, spinach, sun-dried tomato and garlic. What do you think would be a great flavour?

… And here are a couple more tortilla pizzas. I’ve pretty much stopped making regular yeast pizza dough, or even bread, as these tortillas are much more convenient for a single person. One has bacon on it and the other has a meat ragu sauce base with fresh basil leaves.

In place of sandwich bread, wraps are more fun, like in this breakfast or lunch scrambled egg and pepperoni wrap