Tag Archives: veggies

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

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Creamed Spinach … and Pan Fried Pork Chops

Vegetable side dishes are few and far between on this LJ/blog and I can’t claim that this one is particularly healthy. But it tastes SO good. And it’s easy to make with a package of frozen chopped spinach and some inexpensive and easy to source ingredients.

The basic recipe is a copycat Boston Market recipe, which is itself an adaptation of a bechamel (2 tbsp all purpose flour,  2 tbsp butter and 1 cup milk) with a few additions.

Creamed Spinach – serves 3

2 tbsp butter or margarine
2 tbsp minced onion (1 very small onion)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 10 oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup milk, 2 % or whole
2-4 oz Philadelphia cream cheese, roughly cubed**
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
water, if needed

** The lesser amount (2 oz) of cream cheese is enough, but I had some extra, and didn’t want it to go to waste.

In a large saute pan, over medium heat, saute the onion until it starts to pick up some colour. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or two.

Add the spinach and stir to combine with the onion and garlic.

Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir through to coat the spinach.

Pour the milk over the contents of the saute pan, add the cubed cream cheese and the Parmesan cheese and continue stirring until the cream cheese has melted. Taste and add salt, if needed, and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve. If it gets too thick, add a bit of water to thin it down.

Serve with fried chicken or pork chops.

Edited: Chicken and Dumplings (Trial #1)

Chicken and dumplings were on my bucket list … sort of. As in, I have wanted to make them, for some time, but I didn’t actually write them down on my ‘official’ bucket list.

Recently, someone posted a picture on FB and, since I had six chicken drumsticks thawing in the fridge, and all the other ingredients needed, I thought I’d finally give it a try.

The dish is a soup but I’ve seen a thickened version which is almost stew-like. I found a nice simple recipe online … and then I messed with it by deciding to thicken it with a ‘beurre manie’, a flour and butter paste. I combined a tablespoon each of the two until it formed a paste and stirred about a third of the mixture into my chicken soup. But then, I said what the heck and stirred in a bit more. At the end, I had added the entire thing. A bad move it turned out.

I had concerns about the dumpling part of this dish, too. There are two versions. A batter that’s scooped onto the top of the simmering soup and allowed to steam with the lid on until set. And a rolled out thick ‘noodle’ which cooks in the broth. You need both a big pot of soup stock for this latter version, and time to roll it out and cut it. Neither of which I had. So I went with the steamed batter version. At least this part of the dish turned out well. Another possible problem, along with thickening the soup too much, was my choice of cooking vessel. I used a large (11 inch diameter) saute pot which meant that the soup level was fairly shallow and the large surface area meant that a lot of the liquid evaporated even with the lid on.

While steaming the dumplings, I lost even more liquid to the dumplings, and the thickening soup stuck to the bottom of the pan and scorched. I couldn’t lift the lid but I shook the pan several times to free any dumplings. The dumplings didn’t stick … but the ‘soup’ did because by that point I had something that was more like the filling for chicken pot pie in density.

On the plus side, it was all edible. Even the scorched bits.

It was also saltier than I would have liked.

Oh well.

Chicken and Dumplings

NOTE: The recipe below doesn’t use a thickener for the soup.

Chicken and Dumplings – serves 3-4 people

Chicken Soup

2 tsp vegetable oil
6 chicken drumsticks
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 large or 2 medium carrots, peeled, medium dice
2 celery stalks, medium dice
1 clove garlic clove, peeled and smashed but still intact
4-5 cups chicken stock, divided (edited: increased from 3 cups)
salt and pepper to taste (1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper to start)
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tbsp dried parsley

Over medium heat saute onions, carrots, celery and garlic clove until the onions start to caramelize on the edges. Remove the vegetables and brown the chicken drumsticks on both sides.

Return about half of the veggies to the pot (retain the rest of the veggies until the last 15 minutes so they’ll still have some texture), four cups of the chicken stock, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and parsley. Bring to the boil, cover and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes, turning the chicken at least once.

Remove the garlic clove and discard.

Remove the drumsticks to a large bowl and take the meat off the bones. Discard the skin and bones and shred the meat. Return the meat to the saute pan along with the reserved vegetables. Simmer for another 15 minutes. If the soup looks like it’s reduced too much, add the reserved cup of chicken stock.

Make the batter for the dumplings and spoon rounded teaspoonfuls over the top of the soup, leaving some space between the dumplings so they can swell during cooking.

Place the lid on tightly and steam for 15 minutes, shaking gently a few times to reduce the chance of scorching.

Dumplings – makes 12 dumplings, serves 3-4

1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp dried parsley
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp butter or margarine

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and parsley.

Cut in the butter.

Stir in the milk just until the flour is moistened.

Drop heaping teaspoonfuls batter on top of chicken mixture. Cover and simmer until dumplings are cooked through, about 12-15 minutes. (I steamed them for the full 15 minutes.)

Serve the chicken and dumplings topped with additional chopped parsley.

Broccoli Rabe Duo

Lesson Learned… AGAIN: When you buy perishable greens like spinach or arugula, use them as soon as you can. They will hold up for a while, but there are limits, and they’ll yellow, wilt and go bad. Even a sturdy green like kale will yellow, and end up having to be discarded after a week or two.

Just before Christmas, I saw some beautiful bundles of Andy Boy broccoli rabe, on sale, at the grocery store and, although I had no clear idea of what I was going to do with the greens, I brought one home.

Then, I got distracted by other cooking projects, and my poor broccoli rabe got wilted and yellow. Still, I trimmed off the worst of the leaves and used up the last of the rabe in these two dishes. The first is an Italian inspired breakfast or lunch dish. It can even end up on your dinner table. The second is a Chinese/Japanese inspired side dish which can become a main with the addition of sauteed shrimp or even some grilled tofu.

Broccoli Rabe and Ricotta Frittata

The recipe for this frittata is a combination of elements from recipes by Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich. Frittata recipes are often written for 4 people and can use eight to twelve eggs, but for a single person, that’s too much to deal with, so I scaled it down. With the basic recipe below, you can add fresh ingredients and odds and ends of leftovers so each frittata will be a bit different. Instead of whisking in the ricotta, it’s dolloped over the frittata so it stands out.

3 Egg Basic Broccoli Rabe and Ricotta Frittata for One

3 eggs**
1 tbsp butter or olive oil
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano
1/4 cup (3-4 stems) cooked broccoli rabe
2-3 tbsp ricotta
1 tbsp diced sauteed onions
salt and pepper, to taste

Add-ins (amounts are approximations)

3-4 grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 sweet pepper (red, orange, yellow, green) cut into strips and sauteed briefly to soften and remove excess moisture.
2-3 medium mushrooms, sliced, sauteed briefly
2-3 strips bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled

** If making this frittata for two, use 4-6 eggs, depending on how hungry you are.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 deg F.

In a medium sized bowl, break the eggs and whisk in the grated Parmesan cheese, sauteed onions, oregano, a pinch of salt and a grate or two of black pepper.

In a 8-9 inch cast iron frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and stir gently to distribute the ingredients.

Lay the strips of cooked broccoli rabe over the frittata and distribute the ricotta evenly, a rounded teaspoon or two at a time. NOTE: You may want to do this off the heat so that the eggs don’t set before you’re finished. (If using the tomatoes, distribute them, cut side down, evenly over the frittata. The other add-ins may be added to the egg mixture.)

Cook until the eggs begin to set. Transfer the frying pan to the oven and bake for 3-4 minutes, or until the frittata is set. (A minute or two with the broiler on will brown the top, if desired.)

Turn the frittata out onto a plate and serve.

Serving suggestion from Lidia: For a dinner portion, add a green salad and roasted baby potatoes or potato wedges.

Broccoli Rabe Peanut Ramen Noodles

Broccoli Rabe Peanut Ramen Noodles – serves 2

2 (85 gm) pkts ramen noodles**, cooked according to directions and drained

1/2 pound broccoli rabe
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
sesame seeds for garnish
2 wedges of lime, if desired.

Peanut sauce

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp water or dashi stock
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced (or a few shakes of dried garlic powder)
a shake or two red pepper flakes, plus more for garnish

** 180-200 gm soba, udon or wheat noodles may be substituted

Prepare the peanut sauce by whisking together all the ingredients in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. It will look curdled at first, but keep whisking and it will all come together. Set aside.

Trim the broccoli rabe by cutting off the thickest parts of the stem (over 1/4 inch in diameter). Trim the outer branches so you have individual stems.

In a large saute pan, over medium high heat, add the olive oil and when a drop of water added to the pan bubbles and hisses and then evaporates, add the rinsed broccoli rabe. Sprinkle some salt over the broccoli rabe, toss gently to coat rabe with some of the hot oil. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes. Toss the broccoli rabe again to make sure that the top leaves and stems get a chance to contact the hot pan bottom as well. Cover and continue cooking until the leaves are wilted and the stems are barely tender, about 5-7 minutes.

Fill a sauce pot with at least 4 cups of water and bring to the boil. Add the ramen noodles and cook, breaking up the rectangles of noodles as much as you can as they soften. Cook as per directions (about 3 or 4 minutes) and drain. Rinse in cold water to stop the cooking and drain again. Reserve until needed.

(You may leave the noodles in the cold water until your broccoli rabe is tender.)

Add the noodles and peanut sauce to the saute pan with the cooked rabe. Toss until the noodles are coated with the sauce.

Transfer to a serving bowl or individual bowls and top with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and a pinch of red pepper flakes if you wish. Serve the wedge of lime on the size. The squeeze of lime juice will slightly offset the richness of the peanut sauce and the sweet/sour tang complements the bitterness of the broccoli rabe.

NOTE: I’ve made a similar sauce using tahini (sesame paste) and added cooked shrimp for a heartier, one dish meal.

The broccoli rabe peanut ramen noodles may be served on their own or as a side dish with something like the teriyaki pork chop below.

Calzone … a Pizza Alternative

Getting tired of making the same old pizzas??

Make a calzone instead, using the same basic pizza dough. In whatever size you like … 4, 6 or 8 inch.

NOTE: For another alternative to pizza, see the Buffalo chicken stromboli I posted a while ago.

Serve with a bowl of marinara sauce for dipping

I decided to make a regular sized (12 inch/20 cm diameter) pizza for work lunches and divided the rest of the dough into three 8 inch/20 cm calzone which can each serve one hungry person, or two moderately peckish people. I used a generous 1/4 lb (115-130 gm) of dough per calzone.

Filling amounts:

4 inch – 1 tablespoon
6 inch – 1/3 cup
8 inch – 1/2 cup

Broccoli rabe, ricotta and Parmesan cheese filling – fold over and seal the edges by crimping or with the tines of a fork

Brushed with extra virgin olive oil and baked at 450 deg F/230 deg C in a pre-heated oven for 20-25 min. Make vent slits in the top of the calzone before baking. These were marked with the initials of the fillings … R (broccoli rabe), BR, B (bacon)

Regular pizza … pepperoni sauce, sweet peppers (red, orange, yellow), bacon and mozzarella cheese.

Happy New Year (2018) … Plain and Fancy

My last post of 2017 is a testament to the diversity of cooking … plain home style cooking made with basic ingredients and fancy dishes that you’ll find in elegant restaurants or serve to special guests at your table.

Paprika Potatoes – a PLAIN Hungarian inspired potato dish commonly served in the home kitchen and often meatless. If you want something more meaty, add the pork sausage of your choice, smoked or cured. Hungarian kolbasz (sausages) are delicious but you can use Polish sausages (kielbasa) or Romanian carnati afumati (smoked sausages).

The dish is not a stew but you may leave it more ‘soupy’ if you want to have something to dip into with fresh, crusty bread.

Paprika Potatoes (Paprikas Krumpli) – serves 2 or 3

1 tbsp bacon fat or vegetable oil
1/4 onion, finely diced
1 pound (500 gm) potatoes, peeled and sliced into wedges
1/2 pound (~250 gm) cubed or thinly sliced sausages, cut in half if too big
1/4 -1/2 (1/4 cup) sweet pepper (yellow, orange or red), cubed
1/2 cup diced tomatoes with juice or one medium sized tomato, peeled and diced
1 cup ham broth, or water or chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper, more to taste
1 1/2-2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika

In a large saute pan, over medium heat, saute the onion in the bacon fat until it starts to pick up some colour, 5-7 minutes.

Add the diced sausage and continue sauteing until it renders out some of the fat and picks up some colour as well, 5-7 minutes.

Add the diced pepper and continue sauteing for a few more minutes.

Push the contents to one side and if the pan seems dry, add a teaspoon of vegetable oil in the cleared area. Add the paprika and toast for a minute or so. Add the potatoes and tomatoes and stir through to coat with the paprika.

Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the contents and then pour the broth over everything. The broth should almost cover the potatoes and sausages. Bring the contents of the saute pan to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Stir gently after 5-10 minutes to make sure that all the potatoes are in contact with the broth.

Test to see if the potatoes are tender. Remove the lid and continue simmering if the contents are too soupy. If they’re too dry, add a bit more water and cook for another minute or so.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve.

This is actually a very simple dessert, even though it looks FANCYpuff pastry split and filled with pastry cream. It’s the presentation that makes it special. The French version (millefeuille or Napoleons) uses an icing sugar glaze and a decorative drizzle of melted chocolate. The Hungarian version (kremes) has a very thick custard cream filling, often with gelatin added to give it a firmer texture. I chose a simple Romanian version (cemsnit, krempita or placinta cu crema de vanilie ) with a light dusting of icing sugar on top.

Custard Squares

Puff Pastry Squares – Roll out the puff pastry to 1/8th of an inch thick, cut into desired size (2 1/2 inches by 4 inches) and bake in a preheated 400 deg F oven for 20 minutes or until the top is lightly golden brown in colour.

Cool and split in half. Fill as desired.

Tester vanilla custard square

I’m sure I posted the pastry cream filling before but this is a thicker version.

Thick Pastry Cream Filling

2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (or 2 cups if you don’t want it TOO thick) milk, warmed slightly
2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into smaller pieces

Beat whole eggs and yolks slightly in a separate bowl.

Mix sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt in a 2 quart saucepan. Stir in the beaten eggs.

Gradually whisk in the warm milk.

Place the sauce pan on the stove and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils; boil and stir 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla. Whisk in the butter a bit at a time. (NOTE: If your mixture is a bit lumpy, strain through a fine metal sieve.)

Place a sheet of saran wrap over the filling so that it touches the surface, preventing the formation of a skin.

Cool to room temperature.

Turkey Leftovers … “Cream” of Turkey Rice Soup and Pot Pie

I had tucked away some turkey leftovers (turkey gravy, diced breast meat and roasted carcass) at Thanksgiving and decided to finally clear them out of my freezer.

The cream of turkey rice soup came about because I inadvertently let my turkey stock boil (company came, I THOUGHT I had turned off the heat and covered the pot to let it cool). An attempt to clarify the approximately two liters of stock by adding a single beaten egg white, boiling and straining through cheese cloth … did NOT work.

Before and After “Clarifying” Stock

I added some leftover mushroom gravy made with the turkey stock, to a large saucepan, about 4 cups of stock, 1/4 cups of raw long grain rice and a few veggies. No actual cream or potatoes were used.

Not, pretty but delicious.

Turkey Pot Pie with a lard pastry crust

A Comfort Meal for Christmas … Pot Roast

Cooking for one is a challenge during the holidays. You want something special but an elaborate spread is time consuming and can be expensive. The roast below was economical and the long braising time turned a tough piece of beef into a tender and tasty main course.

The outside roast I cooked was small (1.2 kg) so the cooking time was shorter than in the recipe that inspired it. And, while it was braising, there was plenty of time to make the side dishes. I added some new, Christmas-inspired, treats to the meal to make it special.

Purchased Egg nog with a shot of brandy and a grating of fresh nutmeg

Pot Roast, mushroom gravy over mashed potatoes, pot veggies and salad

Mincemeat No-Churn Ice Cream and Mincemeat Kolach

The mincemeat ice cream was a simple variation of the cranberry sauce one I made a while ago. To save time, I’ve posted the recipe below.

Mincemeat No-Churn Ice Cream – makes 3 1/2 – 4 cups

3/4 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup mincemeat, plus another tbsp or 2 for marbling
1 tbsp brandy

In a large cold bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, brandy and the mincemeat.

Add a scoop or two of the whipped cream to the bowl with the sweetened condensed milk and fold in to lighten the mixture. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream as gently as possible.

Scoop half of the ice cream mixture into a freezer safe container. Place several dollops of mincemeat over the ice cream. Scoop the rest of the ice cream mixture into the container. Place a few more dollops of mincemeat over the top. With a butter knife gently marble the mincemeat into the ice cream. Put the lid on the container and place into freezer for a minimum of 8 hrs or overnight.

Cranberry Sauce Variation: Replace the mincemeat in the recipe above with home made or jarred cranberry sauce. Use whatever alcohol you prefer … Cointreau or Grand Marnier bring out the orange notes in the cranberry sauce recipe I used.

Cooking the pot roast – The roast is seasoned with salt and pepper and seared before continuing with the rest of the braise.

The pot roast was tender after 3 hrs but it could have been cooked for another half hour if desired.

Mushroom gravy made with sauteed white mushrooms and strained braising liquid.

Chicken and Veggies in Black Bean Sauce

This is one of the easiest and fastest stir fry Chinese dishes I know how to make. For some reason I often make the beef version and then overcook the beef resulting in a chewy dish. You won’t have that problem with chicken. I used some of the trimmings from preparing chicken cutlets and made Panko breaded and baked chicken fingers from the rest.

ETA: I just realized that I’ve posted a version of this recipe, with slight variations, three times (once every year) and always with chicken. I guess I’m getting old and forgetful. Or I just love the dish so much that I want to encourage people to give it a try. Pick your explanation.

The recipe below is a basic one which may be adjusted to the amounts of meat and vegetables (use your favourites)  you have or prefer. I didn’t have any peppers so I left them out.

Chicken and Broccoli in Black Bean Sauce

Chicken and Veggies in Black Bean Sauce – serves 2-3

1 tbsp vegetable oil
~1/2 pound (200 gm) boneless and skinless chicken breast or thighs
1 tbsp black bean sauce, with or without garlic
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin or sake (substitute with about 1 tsp of sugar if you don’t have either)
1/4-1/2 cup water
1/2 medium onion, sliced in thin strips or substitute with 2-3 stalks of green onion, cut 1/4 inch long on the diagonal
1 thumb’s length (~1 inch) fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped, if black bean sauce doesn’t have any (optional)
1-2 peppers (red, green or yellow)
1-2 stalks broccoli, florettes and stems
salt and ground black pepper, if needed

Other optional protein choices – pork (tenderloin), shrimp or tofu

Thickener for sauce:

1 tbsp cornstarch, 1/4 cup cold water

Combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl and set aside.

Preparing the vegetables:

Cut the broccoli florettes off the stems, about 1 1/2 inches in length and break up into manageable pieces. Peel stems and cut into planks of about the same length and 1/4-1/2 inch thickness.

Core and seed peppers and slice into same thickness as the broccoli stems

Peel onion, if using, and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices

Preparing the chicken meat:

Slice chicken into strips 1/4-1/2 inch thick and about 1 1/2 inches long, as with the veggies.

Cooking the dish:

Heat the vegetable oil in a saute pan or wok over medium high heat, add the sliced chicken and cook just until no longer pink. Transfer meat to a bowl and reserve. In the same saute pan, add the sliced onions, ginger and garlic and saute until the onions are no longer translucent.

Add the broccoli and 1/4 cup of water, cover with a lid and let steam for 1 1/2-2 minutes until the broccoli is a bright green but still crunchy. Add the pepper strips and toss through, cooking for another minutes or so.

Return the cooked chicken to the pan, along with the black bean paste, mirin, oyster and soy sauce and stir together.

Stir the cornstarch/water mixture until it’s smooth and pour into the middle of the saute pan. Watch carefully as it bubbles and thickens. Stir the sauce so that it coats the vegetables and meat. If needed add the remaining 1/4 cup of water, or more.

Taste the meat and vegetables adding salt and pepper, if needed. You may also add an additional dash or so of soy sauce.

Serve the chicken and veggies over rice noodles or noodles.

The Humble Baked Potato … Gets Dressed Up

The classic baked potato with sour cream and butter. Delicious. But it can be so much more.

Like twice baked potato skins. Which I’m going to make too. In the meantime, here are some other toppings for that baked potato.

Broccoli and Cheddar Baked Potato – A simple bechamel (white sauce) becomes a mornay sauce when you stir cheese into it. Sharp/old cheddar cheese adds a nice punch but you can use whatever kind you prefer. Microwave some broccoli florettes just until tender, chop them up coarsely and then stir them into your cheese sauce.

The result … like having a bowl of cream of broccoli and potato  soup but with a lot more substance. Makes a tasty side dish to a pork chop or a piece of roasted chicken.

Dress up a pan of baked potatoes with various toppings for game day.

Chili Baked Potato – chili con carne, sour cream, shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese, green onion

I was going to make and post each of the toppings below but I got distracted by other things so I’m sending this out into the LJ/blogging world. I may make and post pictures at some point … but I’m not making any promises.

Other Baked Potato Toppings

1. Pulled Pork – bbq sauce, shredded pulled pork, coleslaw, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions
2. Breakfast Sausage and Gravy – pork sausage gravy
3. Tex-Mex – spiced meat (ground beef or turkey) mixture, salsa, queso fresco (or paneer cheese)