Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
We all have rough days, rough weeks, heck - rough months! I find the best way to pick up a loved one is to make them something deliciousl. My wonderful husband hasn't had a bad week, but he's had a long week and is in need of a little pick-me-up. Enter Toffee Squares.....
Compliments of Joy of Baking:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (130 grams) all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 F and place oven rack in the center of the oven. Line the bottom and sides of an 8 inch (20 cm) square baking pan with aluminum foil. Only have a large pan? Double the recipe.
Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla extract. Then add the salt and flour and mix just until incorporated. Spread the shortbread evenly on the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the shortbread is golden brown with well browned edges. This will take 35 minutes if the recipe has been doubled.
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup (50 grams) almonds, toasted and chopped
Remove from oven and immediately scatter the chocolate over the hot shortbread. Return the shortbread to the oven for a minute or two or just until the chocolate softens. Remove from oven and, with an offset spatula or back of a spoon, evenly spread the chocolate. Sprinkle the chopped almonds over the chocolate. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool.
Once the chocolate has set, lift the shortbread from the pan using the edges of the foil. Place on a cutting board and, with a sharp knife, cut into squares.
Store in an airtight container. These will keep for several weeks at room temperature.
Note: To toast the almonds. Place the almonds on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 F oven for about 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let the nuts cool completely and then chop.
I love finding recipes that don't use graham cracker crust. You can't find organic graham crackers, and you certainly can't find fair trade graham crackers. I often substitute recipes that call for graham with shortbread (white sugar shortbread, not brown) and it always kicks the squares up a HUGE notch.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Because I bake and cook in bulk, I had the liberty of pretty much taking the week off from the kitchen last week. We were busy with field trips and fun-filled March Break days which included the Maple Syrup Festival at Westfield Heritage Village and bug-eating at the Butterfly Conservatory (no, we didn't count the bugs Ron and Sol ate as part of the food budget). Well, March Break is over and I suppose it's back to business...
Are potatoes your best friend? They should be. These babies are so versatile it is literally amazing. Buy bulk potatoes that you have to wash and prepare - the frozen fries, instant mash, etc. are not only more expensive than they need to be but they're filled with crap you don't want to be eating. A favorite at our house is stuffed potato. These can be as healthy or indulgent as you'd like and can pretty much use anything you've got sitting in your fridge.
Plan on each adult eating one whole potato and each child for a half (if they're nice hand-sized potatoes). You can also make these in bulk and freeze them before they're baked - they're great for company and to throw on the bbq when you can't figure out what to eat with your steak or chicken.
Cut potato in half length-wise and boil until it's just soft enough to stick a fork through easily. Drain potatoes and let cool on a cutting board. When cold enough to handle take a spoon and scoop out the middles, leaving the skins and a bit of the potato "meat" attached to the skin. Place the guts of the potato in a bowl large enough to mash them and add your extras. If you wreck one of the skins by breaking it or scooping it too thin, just get all the potato out of it you can and don't sweat it. I usually end up over-boiling a few and they break apart before I even get the chance to scoop them.
Some people like to whip their potatoes so they're really creamy, some people like to hand mash - I don't care what you do here - just mash your potatoes how you like them!
When they're mashed it's time to add your extras. This is a great chance to sneak in nutrient rich veggies like broccoli, finely chopped asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, peppers, etc. Cook or steam veggies before adding them to the mash.
Don't forget to add herbs and spices. Chop up some fresh garlic and throw it in! Sautee some onions. Add a bit of rock salt, onion powder and chives for a traditional taste. Don't go too crazy with salt and pepper as people will more than likely throw it on top of the potato without even tasting it first (grrrr).
I like to add whatever scraps of cream cheese (flavored or not) I have in the fridge, I also like to empty the sour cream tubs that may be lurking in a back corner somewhere. You could add some butter at this point as well. Pick up any cheese on sale? Throw it in! Having cheese in these guys is so very tasty.
So you get it - throw in whatever you want and mix it into the mash.
Arrange your potatoes on a baking tray either lined with parchment paper, aluminum foil or lightly greased. If you're planning on freezing these before baking - still arrange them on a tray so you can individually freeze them before storing them. Take a hearty scoop of your filling mixture and begin to fill each potato skin. Start out by giving each potato a full scoop and add more at the end when you see how much you've got. You will probably end up with more filling than you expected depending on how many extas you added to the mash. Your potatoes will be heaping over the top with the filling mixture, but it looks so pretty and bakes fine like that. If needed, use the palm of your hand to round the filling.
If freezing, place cookie sheet flat in your freezer for a few hours. Don't forget about them or they'll dry out. When solid, transfer to a freezer bag or a box of some kind and you'll be able to take out as many or as little as you'd like.
If baking, place tray in oven at 400F for 45 minutes or until golden brown. You may want to cook them for a longer or shorter period of time depending on how soft your potatoes were to begin with. I really like over-doing mine, so I usually leave them in for an hour.
If you're going to throw these on the BBQ, place them on a sheet of aluminum foil and tent a bit of foil on the top to trap the heat better. Be sure to keep the heat low and steady until they're ready.
Serve with sour cream and ENJOY.
I clearly live in a meat eating
household. We may not have meat every day, but we do have it often and we enjoy it. Zehrs carries a free-from meat that we like to get when it's marked down 30% or 50%. Even at a discount we can't afford the skinless boneless chicken breast, and that's fine with us because the dark meats are tastier and having to eat food from bones is a great way to stay connected to what you're eating (especially for kids).
Chicken drumsticks are most often what is marked down, so that's what we have the most of. I like to think of them as jumbo wings - that way, it's deluxe not discount!
You can prepare your chicken however you please, but I like to toss mine in a bit of vineager and salt and let it sit for a day before seasoning it. Vineager and salt sounds nasty, but it really tenderizes the meat and makes it so very very delicious. After a day of sitting in this brine mixture, I rinse the legs off and prepare to season. Asian food markets are wonderful for many reasons, but a top reason is their spices and seasoning mixes. Most asian food marts will carry a tandoori mix (red powder) and this is a great way to mix up your bbq flavors (getting away from typical bbq sauce, Diana sauce, etc.) I throw a few Tbsp of tandoori in a large plastic bag (leftover bread bag will do) and throw the legs in. Keep some air in the bag and twist the top. Shake the bag until the powder has coated the legs evenly. Throw in a bit of sauce (I use my favorite Polynesian soy sauce and liquid amino) to keep the legs moist and leave in the fridge until you're ready to bbq. If you want to eat them that night, try to get this done in the morning so the tandoori flavor can soak right in to the meat.
Be sure to cook meat that's on the bone long and slow. You'll get a nicer flavor and you won't over cook the outside by the time the inside is done. Keep an eye on meats that have more fat because they'll make your bbq flare up (yummy but keep and eye on it).
Chicken thighs are EXCELLENT for making homemade chicken parmesan. If they're not skinless and boneless when you buy them, simply do that at home (save the bones for soup stock). The dark meat is so forgiving, you can cook these a bit longer than usual and still end up with a delicious meal.
Get three cereal bowls ready - one with flour, the next with egg, the last with bread crumbs. Preheat your frying pan with a bit of oil (not olive oil, it will burn) and let it get really hot on medium heat (keep it on medium for a long time instead of high for a short time). Dip your chicken in the flour, then the egg and lastly the breadcrumbs. GENTLY place in hot oil and cook a few minutes on each side until brown and crispy. The meat should be pretty thin and if you cook these on medium heat you shouldn't have to worry about them being fully cooked. If you want to remove one of the thighs to cut it open and peek at the meat, no harm done - it's better than eating raw chicken.
When the thighs are still hot, place a scoop of either spaghetti sauce or bruschetta mix and place a slice or two of mozza cheese on top. The heat from the chicken should be enough to melt the cheese. If you want to keep them on the pan for this step, simply turn the heat off and place a lid on top to trap the heat. Don't leave it for too long or you'll risk burning the chicken.
Serve with a fresh and delicious salad and you can't go wrong.
I overboiled an awful lot of potatoes and they fell apart before I could stuff them. I used the extra mashed potato to stuff some sort of lunch thingy for the kids. I threw in broccoli, cauliflower, garlic, onion, and cheese and made a double batch of my pizza dough. Baked it for 20 minutes and now I have a cool lunch alternative that I wasn't necessarily planning on.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
It's getting warmer, and you feel like the food you eat should match your feelings. Make HOMEMADE TORTILLAS. You can put anything in them (even little guys like a bit of peanut butter rolled up on a tortilla) and they are perfect for the whole family. Don't get frustrated if you mess a few up or don't roll them thin enough. If you somehow manage to ruin this recipe (very hard to do, but not unheard of) simply cut the tortillas into triangle shapes and fry them until crispy with a wee bit of oil in a frying pan. Use them to dip in hummus or salsa - you may "wreck" them again and again.
This recipe is compliments of The Fresh Loaf
3 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt (give or take a bit, to taste)
1/4 cup oil
1 cup warm water (approx)
Mix all the dry ingredients together, then make a hole in the middle.
Put the oil and 3/4 of the water in the hole. Mix together with hands; add more of the water until the dough is soft and not too sticky.
Divide the dough into 12 or 13 balls.
Take a ball in your hands and with the palm of your hand flatten as much as possible.
Roll out with a rolling pin
Cook in a hot pan with just a little oil, flipping as soon as bubbles appear.
That's it! If you want keep them warm while you make the whole batch, either put a damp cloth on a frying pan on medium heat with the lid on (kind of like a steamer - be careful and use discretion) or keep them in tin foil to keep them warm and pliable.
Cheap & Easy Filling Ideas
Eggs are a cheap and wholesome food that everyone should incorporate into their day. For a little change in your regular egg salad, use Ranch or Caesar dressing instead of Mayonnaise, it is SO good.
Deli meat can be expensive, why not fill the wrap with veggies and your favorite sauce? Lettuce, shredded carrot, cucumber and bean sprouts are delicious with a bit of raspberry vinaigrette. Sprinkle a bit of cheese in there for variety and you've got one tasty wrap.
Why not make a traditional tortilla? Spread refried beans all over the tortilla, put in some ground meat (seasoned of course), salsa, lettuce and cheese and you will have a family favorite. You may think Taco Bell is "cheap" but not when you compare it to the cost of making it at home - PLUS when you're making it at home you know exactly what is in your food.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
As a champion for the world of fruits and vegetables it has occurred to me that a lot of us are throwing out valuable parts of our produce with nether a care.
So before you peel that carrot here are some produce part tips.
I can't remember the last time I peeled a carrot or a parsnip. The peel or outer layer of any fruit and vegetable has a concentration of antioxidants that protect the plant from disease. When we eat those outer layers we too get protection from disease. These naturally occurring defense mechanisms are called antioxidants and research unveils almost daily yet another reason why we need to eat our produce.
As long as you scrub this outer peel well there is no need to peel carrots, parsnips, new potatoes, or young sweet potatoes. Rutabagas are a different story - the outer peel has been waxed so off it comes.
I save the washed ends of carrots, parsnips, celery, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, or cauliflower, and any kind of onion in a freezer-safe container until I have enough to make a vegetable soup stock. I simply add all of the frozen bits and pieces to water, throw in some garlic and a bay leaf, and simmer covered for at least an hour. Voilá homemade stock.
Baking potatoes only need a scrub. I toss well scrubbed sweet potatoes and baking potatoes that are chopped into smaller pieces with canola oil and roast them in the oven. I even mash new potatoes with the peel on - mind you I have changed the name to Smashed Spring Potatoes to explain why the peel is on, but it gets rave reviews.
Beet tops are in my opinion the best part of the beet. When I was a kid my parents had a huge vegetable garden and beets were one of their favourite crops. The best part of those purple orbs was the deep leafy greens my mom steamed and served with a little bit of butter or vinegar.
The zest off an orange, lemon or lime is a bonus for home cooks. Wash citrus really well, dry and then using a zester remove the thin outer peel to add to your baking, pasta or rice dishes, or a bowl of yogurt. The zest really kicks up the flavour as well as the nutrient density of what you're eating. I love adding orange zest to my chocolate chip cookie recipe.
After you have squeezed the juice from a lemon throw them into a big jug of water for a hint of lemon flavour.
Have a small heel of cabbage left over? Shred it to a make an easy cole slaw. Add a diced apple and some red onion, dress with oil and vinegar and you have a side salad.
Leave the peel on a well washed English cucumber or a really tender cucumber. They peel is the most nutrient dense part.
Don't throw out the fluffy green ends of celery - they can go into a soup stock or can be diced and added to a rice pilaf.
I now eat peach peel. I just gently rub off the fuzzy stuff under running water.
Banana peels? Well I don't want you to eat them but my mother, who grew prize roses, swore that her roses were so amazing because she buried banana peels around each rose bush. They will compost, just bury them deep enough so the skunks and raccoons don't dig up your flowers.
And don't even think about peeling an apple, even for cooking. I have grated whole apples into pancakes, muffins and soups and no one knows the peel was even on it. And, yes, that is where most of the disease lowering antioxidants are. Just scrub well.
The general rule is if the peel is soft, thin, and tastes like the fruit or vegetable you can eat it. If the outer layer is hairy, warty, thick or bitter you can't eat it. Let common sense prevail.
Some people call this economical cooking. I like to call it nutrient dense cooking.
If you're concerned about pesticides then buy organic, but remember they still use pesticides albeit more environmentally friendly ones and you still need to wash or scrub all your produce before you start cooking or eating it.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Homemade bagels are INCREDIBLY simple. Not only do you not need the same rising time or baking time as bread, you don't really need any skill either! Seriously, if you try nothing else from the Lent Experiment, give bagels a chance.
* A comment about yeast * If you plan on making things that require yeast on a regular basis DO NOT buy the individual packets. The price difference between those little packages and bulk is unreal. Places like Zehrs and RCSS carry a bulk package of "Bakers Yeast" that costs pennies per tsp. Yeast is time sensitive and should be kept in a cool, dry place. You should also keep it in a container that is sealed to optimize it's life. Instant yeast doesn't always need to be "proofed" for all recipes, but it's a good way to check that it hasn't died. I've kept mine for up to a year with n
o problems - just be sure to check it before
you waste ingredients.
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1-1/4- 1-1/2 cups of warm water
2 tsp yeast
4 cups flour
Dissolve, sugar and salt in warm water. Add oil and sprinkle with yeast. Add flour until dough pulls from the side of the bowl. Transfer to work surface and knead for 10 min. or so. This dough should be quite tough to knead and very firm. Cut dough into 8 equal sized pieces, roll into balls, cover with dry towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
To shape the bagels, the easiest thing to do is put your finger or thumb through the middle of the dough ball. Work the dough into the standard bagel shape, making sure it's even all around. If it's not even, don't sweat it - homemade can look less than professional - no one, and I mean no one will complain.
Let rest again for another 20-30 minutes. After 10 minutes are up turn your oven on to 500F and get a big pot of water boiling.
Prepare your baking tray by lining it with parchment paper or greasing it very lightly with vegetable oil.
Once water is at a rolling boil and bagels have rested for at least 20 minutes (they should start to look puffy) drop the bagels in the water and boil on each side for 1 minute. If you have a cooling rack, let the bagels rest on it for a few minutes before putting on baking tray - if not, no sweat.
This is the time for toppings. As you may guess, anything goes. I've made everything bagels (poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dehydrated onion and garlic salt), sesame bagels, plain, etc. once you're more familiar with bagel making you can add ingredients to the dough (cinnamon raisin) but plain is best to start.
Bake at 500F for 10 minutes. Let cool for as long as you can stand it & enjoy.
* If you have malt powder or liquid at home, find a recipe that uses malt. It's the more authentic way to make bagels, and improves their color. I don't use it because I have no other need for it, but if you've got it - try it!*
Almost Linda's Chelsea Buns
Somehow, with all the siblings my Mom and Dad gave me, they managed to miss one. Linda DEFINITELY should have been my sister. She bakes like a queen, but is also very funny and beautiful. I absolutely adore her. One night around a campfire I got her Chelsea bun recipe off of her. She only spoke it to me (there's no pen and paper at a campfire!) so there are a few alteratio
ns that may or may not be part of the recipe. It still tastes great, but that's why they're called ALMOST Linda's Chelsea Buns.
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
4 cups warm water
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp yeast
Dissolve sugar and salt in warm water. Add oil. Combine flour and yeast, add to wet ingredients and let proof (15 minutes).
Add up to 5 more cups of flour until you get the right dough consistency. You're looking for something similar to a bread dough but a bit firmer.
Let rise until doubled in bulk.
Butter (roughly 3/4 cup)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon (or to taste)
While bread is rising, prepare butter by whipping some into a frenzy. It needs to be easily spreadable but still thick.
Prepare baking dish by slathering the bottom with a generous helping of butter. You don't want to be able to see through the bottom if you're using glass.
When dough has risen, punch down and place on work surface. Roll into rectangle shape 1/4" thick. Brush with butter (don't be shy). Mix sugars and cinnamon in a bowl and sprinkle the buttered rectangle - make sure you save some of the sugar mixture and sprinkle the bottom of the baking dish with whatever remains. You want enough sugar to make a syrup with the butter, but not to make a crust. Roll dough into log, pinch seam, and slice into 1-2" rounds. Place buns into prepared pan, cover with damp cloth and let rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F.
When oven and buns are ready, place buns on middle rack and bake for ROUGLY 30 minutes. If you make 8 humungous buns (as I did today) you will need to bake them for around 45 minutes, but if you use a larger pan and make 12-15 smaller buns, 30 minutes should be adequate. When you think your buns are done, take them out of the oven and carefully peek between two of them - if the dough is cooked it's ready, if not - it's not. If you are worried about the top getting too crunchy before the buns are thoroughly cooked, you can "tent" aluminum foil over the tops for 10 minutes or so.
Enjoy, and thank Linda.
Bread Tips with Rose of Sharon
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Starter: White Sandwich Bread
1/2 cup warm water
1 2/3 cups warm milk
2 Tbsp active dry yeast
Dissolve sugar in warm water and milk,
and sprinkle top with yeast. Let stand for 5-10 minutes or frothy.
3 Tbsp honey
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp oil
5 cups flour (may need more for kneading
Add honey, salt, and oil. Add flour two cups at a time, until dough pulls from side of bowl and becomes hard to mix with spoon. The actual amount of flour you will need depends on your environmental factors. Turn dough onto floured board and knead for 10 minutes or so. You don't want the dough to stick to your hands, but you don't want it to become too dry either - so be careful when adding flour to your work surface.
Place dough in greased bowl, turning to coat it. Cover with damp dishtowel/cloth and let rise for 1hr or until double in size.
Punch dough, removing most bubbles. Cut as evenly in half as you can and shape your loaves. There are online tutorials on how to shape loaves if you need help with this step. Place loaves in prepared bread pans - I use parchment paper but you can grease your pan lightly. (If you use parchment, re-use it over and over again until it flakes apart - it's a great way to save time and money. Just keep it in your bread pan until next time).
Cover with damp dishtowel/cloth, and let rise for 45 minutes - 1 hour.
Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes. Cool 10-15 minutes before cutting. Enjoy.
*If you want to cut home made bread into nice thin pieces, just wait until it's completely cool (or even wait overnight if you can). We usually lop off a nice thick piece while it's warm and devour it, saving the rest for actual sandwiches.*
Rewind.... 10 minutes until bread is done and it's time to start some muffins:
Ready-to-go snacks and breakfast foods are key to keeping yourself on a budget. We don't have a lot of sweets around right now, and the cookies Ron made on Sunday have completely disappeared so I decided to make....
Raspberry Chocolate Chip Muffins
• 1/2 cup butter, melted
• 3/4 cup milk (or 1/2c milk and 1/4 cup water)
• 2 large
• 1 3/4 cups flour
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 cups chocolate chips
• 1 cup fresh or frozen whole raspberries
Preheat your oven to 350°F Lightly grease (or line with cupcake papers) a 12-cup muffin pan
In a large bowl, mix the melted butter, milk, and eggs. Be sure your melted butter is not hot or you'll cook the eggs! In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chips. Add the dry mixture to the wet and stir until combined. Add raspberries and stir until it's evenly distributed in batter.
Bake the muffins for 25-30 minutes, until they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out relatively clean (there may be raspberry or melted chocolate on it). Your baking time will depend on whether or not you used fresh or frozen fruit, and if you chose to replace raspberries with blueberries or blackberries. Keep an eye on them from 25 minutes on, you may find you need to cook them a little past 30 minutes. Remove muffins from the oven, and let them cool.... if you can.
While my muffins were baking, I had a peek through the fridge and found 1/4 pack of bacon that needed to be used almost that minute! The meat wasn't bad (please don't use rotten meat) but it was definitely ready to say adieu. Wasting food is not an option, so I threw the frying pan on some heat and got ready to cook the bacon. I decided to make:
Bacon and Cheese Biscuits
These look shiny because I JUST brushed them with milk.
Tim Hortons charges 2.50 for a bacon and egg biscuit, and I've had it - it's yummy. Is it worth almost double what it costs to make breakfast for a whole week? No. Even if you decide to slice this open, fry and egg and make a sandwich you're still WAY ahead of the game. This batch made 13 biscuits and cost a little under 1.50 for the whole thing (that's a mere 11 cents each). If you do cook an egg, they average 40c each which would bring you to a grand total of 51 cents for brekkie!
I started with a basic biscuit recipe from a Depression Era cookbook my Mom gave me:
2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp shortening
3/4 cup milk (or mix milk and water)
Sift dry ingredients together and cut shortening into flour mix with fingers or pastry cutter.
I added scraps of cheese that were in my deli drawer (maybe 1/4 cup of mixed shredded cheeses), and a tsp of dried herbs. I used my Epicure Tapinade mix, but you can add whatever you like - chives, garlic, basil are all good for this recipe. Once the bacon was cooked and cooled I chopped it into tiny pieces (as small as bacon bits) and added it to the dry biscuits BEFORE adding my milk. I've heard of people cooking breakfast sausage, chopping it up and putting them in biscuits as well.... could be yummy. This is also a good opportunity to use up any leftover chicken, steak, etc. you may have in your fridge from a previous dinner. Don't make it too deluxe or you'll never go back to "normal" biscuits again.
Add milk and mix until it needs a brief "kneading". You may find you need more milk/water than the recipe calls for. In this case, add it 1tsp at a time (like pie crust) until it reaches desired consistency.
After a quick knead on floured board, roll out to 1/2" - 3/4" thick and cut with biscuit cutter or floured glass.
The recipe calls for these to be baked at 425F for 12-15 minutes, but our oven is at 350 for the cabbage rolls. I bumped my oven to 375 for the biscuits and cooked them for 20 minutes, turning it back to 350 when they were done. Brush with water or milk when out of oven (if desired) to keep the tops soft.
For a little treat, here's an exerpt from my Depression Era cookbook:
"The chief requirements for "good biscuits" are: 1. Very soft dough, so soft as to be almost sticky; 2. Very little handling, because much manipulation destroys their lightness; 3. A very quick oven. If biscuits are not allowed to touch each other in the pan, they will be lighter and more delicate than when placed close together."
You'd think that would be enough for the day, but my two youngest aren't keen on cabbage rolls and I'd like to make a sort of bruchetta to go with the meal.
Bruschetta and Garlic Bread
Make a batch of my basic pizza dough, if necessary cut the rising time to 1/2 hour.
Shape your dough into the classic pizza circle/oval.
Finely mince garlic and cook in a little bit of butter until soft. If you belong to my family, you may want to use an awful lot of garlic here.
When garlic is soft, add a few chunks of butter (maybe 2-3tbsp) and let soften until half way melted. Remove from heat (you may want to transfer it into a small bowl) with a hand blender or fork, begin to "mash" the butter and garlic. Because half of it is melted and half is not, it will make a creamy butter/garlic paste you can then use to top your pizza dough.
After spreading your garlic butter, sprinkle with shredded cheese. How much you use is optional.
You can bake this as-is for a garlic/cheese bread, or go the extra mile and top it with bruschetta topping. There are toppings in your refrigerated section of the grocery store, the canned aisle, the tomato sauce aisle - pretty much everywhere. You can also make your own, but since I have a jar I got on sale I'm going to use that and call it a day!
You're going to need to bump your oven up for this bread, so when its almost time to eat - turn the oven up to 450F, take the cabbage rolls out and leave the tin on the top so it can begin to cool but not get too cool. The bruschetta/garlic bread should take 12-15 minutes to cook - serve piping hot with delicious cabbage rolls!
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Ground meat (any kind will do - mixing meats is good for flavor) (optional)
Celery (with leaves)
Rice, quinoa, or cous cous
Sour cream (optional)
Cabbage rolls are a bit of work, which makes them a perfect meal to make in bulk and freeze. I actually never tasted a cabbage roll until a year or two ago and I was so sad that I had missed this important food up until then. I love cabbage rolls because they are versatile, forgiving, and always delicious.
Preparing the filling:
Because I always at least double or triple what I'm making I throw together ingredients in whatever ratio I have available and keep making rolls until I run out of cabbage. If there is too much filling, freeze it until the next time you need to make a few batches. Following measurements is quite tedious when it's something that is as forgiving as cabbage rolls. Just use your discretion and have fun being creative.
Begin by cooking rice, quinoa, or cous cous. I will cook 1 cup of any of these "fillers" per 8 oz of meat. If you are making these vegetarian, simply up the amount you make. This is a great time to use whole grains you normally wouldn't eat because of texture or taste - you won't notice them in this delicious dish!
Sauté onions and garlic in butter until soft.
While onions and garlic are softening, prepare celery and peppers, chopping them finely.
In a large bowl, combine ground meat, cooked grains, diced vegetables and herbs to taste. This dish is particularly good with parsley, pepper and salt. Mix the ingredients together with your hands making sure it really comes together and is mixed thoroughly. Refrigerate while preparing cabbage, or leave it until the next day to finish.
Preparing the Cabbage:
There are two schools on how to prepare cabbage. One is to freeze the cabbage thoroughly and then de-frost it. This will wilt your cabbage and soften it so you can roll it easily. The other method is to core the cabbage and boil it, removing it from the boiling water periodically to remove the cooked leaves and allow the leaves in the center to cook.
I always boil my cabbage, but just because I can never wait the day or two for the cabbage to freeze and then the third day for it to defrost.
Remove the core of the cabbage, and gently place in large pot of boiling water. Cook for 3-5 minutes until leaves are bright green and tender. Lift cabbage out of water (you will need some sort of device for this - it's VERY hot (obviously)), remove cooked leaves and return to the pot. Continue to do so until all usable cabbage leaves are cooked.
*Do not discard your cabbage water when finished boiling, you will need this later in the recipe*
*Do not throw out outer leaves of cabbage, they can be used to line pot or baking dish to help your rolls not stick*
*Do not throw out center of cabbage that isn't good for rolling. Once cooled, chop into bite sized pieces and use for soup*
When leaves are cooled, take a paring knife and carefully remove the vein from the cabbage leaf. You will need to slice the vein off without actually cutting the leaf. Martha Stewart makes what she calls "stuffed cabbage" and the video can be helpful for this step:
Putting it all together:
I was told last year by my very lovely Polish friend that there is such a thing as lazy-man cabbage rolls. You simply layer the cooked cabbage on the bottom or the baking dish, pile your filling on top and layer more cabbage on top. Leave some space to put your tomato puree and a bit of cabbage water. We've recently converted to this type of cabbage "roll" because we can use more of the cabbage we wouldn't be able to use otherwise (tears, leaf not big enough, etc.)
If you would like to make the traditional roll, here's how to do it:
Prepare your dish by lining it with unusable cabbage leaves. You should have the sides covered as well.
Place cooled and de-veined cabbage leaves in a pile so you can work easily. One leaf at a time, lay the cabbage out like a tortilla and place desired amount of filling not quite in the center of the leaf. Fold sides of cabbage over filling, and roll (stem end first) tightly.
My Dad loves cabbage rolls that are really stuffed, (Uniqpol in Brantford apparently makes a humungous cabbage roll) but I prefer a medium sized roll. If you have a lot of company or are attending a potluck you can make these as small as you'd like. Just be sure to increase cooking time for very large rolls so that the meat is cooked thoroughly.
If eating the same day:
You can line a Dutch oven with your unusable cabbage leaves and cook this right on your stovetop so there is no oven necessary. Simply line your pot with cabbage, fill with rolls, top with tomato puree and a few cups of cabbage water (until all rolls are covered) and cook for an hour or until cabbage is VERY tender.
If freezing for a lazy day:
Prepare tin (or glass) baking tray with cabbage leaves (not applicable for lazy man cabbage). Fill with rolls and top with tomato puree and small amount of cabbage water. Cover with tin foil, or if using a tin dish it usually comes with a tin lid. Place on a cookie sheet while freezing so that it doesn't leak or freeze unevenly. Do not stack before frozen - you will have one hoo-haw of a mess. Once frozen, I take the cookie sheets away and pile them in the freezer just waiting for a lazy winter day. From frozen, they need 4 hours at 350F to cook properly. I usually place the frozen tin on a cookie sheet or casserole dish with a bit of water to keep it moist while cooking. Remove tin foil from top of rolls for last 15-20 minutes.
Serve with sour cream on the side. Think that's crazy? Just try it and you'll never go back!
*I put the cabbage rolls on the bottom rack (I actually put both racks close to the middle and put it on the bottom/middle) so that I can bake other things that can be cooked at 350F at the same time. You might want to find a bun recipe that cooks at 350 (or close to it) so you can throw them in the oven close to eating time and have fresh buns with your delicious meal!*
Monday, March 8, 2010
Typically a day out means extra $ on food. Not preparing in advance can mean big bucks that you weren't planning on spending.
Whether or not you have a family, you need to plan on what you're going to eat. Going to a theme park for the day? Pick one thing you'd like to buy (funnel cake) and bring everything else from home. Taking the family to the fair? Let them each know they get their choice of one item and that's it. Having fun is not synonymous with spending money, in fact, it's usually the opposite.
It's a special day, get/make special food! The McGraths spent the day at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, so Ron made chocolate chip cookies last night. I bought a few juice boxes (fruit + veggie juice boxes) but we brought big reusable bottles filled with ice cold water and the juice was just for a treat. I found some chips on sale (whole grain Pringles? They looked weird but tasted yummy) and that was Monty's treat after he finished his lunch.
The point is, a special day doesn't need to stress your wallet. Having portable snacks and treats is the best way to stop unnecessary spending. A few bucks for fries here and a few bucks for coffee and pop there really add up and just aren't worth it!
After a long day, the last thing you want to do is come home and cook a meal. We have a favorite meal around here that is fast, easy and healthy.
Taco Salad (sans Taco)
- Lots of leafy greens. This is a great way to get your kids to eat the darker greens - we always use baby spinach because it's the least bitter.
- Favorite Veggies ready for topping: shredded carrot, cucumber slices, peppers, whatever you've got in your fridge
- Ground meat of any kind. Always cook your ground meat with onion and garlic. Just frying ground meat can be very bland and kind of yucky. I also add a fajita spice mix from Epicure, but you could add chili powder or whatever seasoning your family enjoys. Vegetarians can use Veggie Ground Round (so so good) or skip the meat option. Love meat like a crazy carnivore? Add a bit of freshly cooked bacon to the meat list.... so delicious.
- Little bit of shredded cheese (we like Nacho mix but only if it's on sale/clearance)
Mix your salad in a bowl with whatever dressing you plan on using. This is not a recipe that suits sweet dressings like raspberry vinaigrette. Renee's Ranch has nice big chunks of garlic in it, so that's what we typically use.
After your salad is dressed, put it out on plates and begin topping with cold veggies and cheese. Be sure the salad and veggies are the biggest portion of this meal. You can't have this salad with half meat and half lettuce. 75% veggies, 25% meat and cheese works best for flavor and for keeping it on the healthy side. When your meat is hot and ready, top the salads and serve immediately.
Everyone down to the baby loves this salad. Want to get a 1yr old to eat a spinach salad? This is the way! We especially love to have this meal when I get a big box of organic baby spinach for 50% off - it's a great way to use most of the box and it's a really cheap meal.