Wednesday, 26 December 2012

New Year's Day Buffet Croquettes

Almost every year, on New Year's Day we hold an open house for family and close friends. It is a chance for people to come and have a drink to toast the new year, share stories of the year past, and of course, enjoy wonderful snacks. I always have a variety of different styles of foods, but there are some things we could not do without, such as Indonesian chicken - usually wings for the buffet; my smoked salmon brie wedges, and traditional Dutch croquettes. There are always lots of raw veggies with dips, fruit platters, meat and cheese platters, crackers, and sweets. I usually have butter tarts, mince tarts, gingerbread cookies, candy cane cookies, and whipped shortbread. I have been know to include the 'hurry up cake' or brownies and blondies, as well as Naniamo bars in regular and mint (Domino bar) varieties. We also have a wide variety of  hot and cold beverages - both alcoholic and non - and chocolates and candy everywhere. When we lived in Mission, BC, the children went to a pre-school which had a pastry fundraiser every year. They sold mini quiches, and spanakopitas, which I would add to the buffet. I think you can buy those things at some big box stores -(Superstore or Costco). I have begun to make mini quiches, using frozen pastry shells, but I am not trying spanakopitas. At least, not yet.

I would like to share the recipe for Dutch bitterballen, or croquettes. They are almost the same thing, all that changes is the shape. They are basically a very pasty, thick gravy, with spices, herbs, and pieces of meat - well done is best. I know many of you who know me will say, "REALLY?!! Well done?!!" as I usually prefer beef to be rare, but there you are. The paste must be thick enough to shape. Then they are dipped into an egg mix, and rolled in breadcrumbs, then deep fried until crisp, golden and hot. Usually served with a mustard dip, they are wonderful! These are labour intensive, and take a long time, but I think they are worth the effort. There is an alternative - you can buy frozen croquettes at the Dutch cash and carry store in Calgary for $16 a dozen. I can make about a hundred for that price.

Please remember that I do not actually measure anything, so all measurements are approximate.
What you need for the filling: 300 gr of cooked beef ;1- 2 tbs onion powder or very finely minced onion; 1-2 tbs garlic powder, or a Tbs of minced garlic from a jar; 2 -3tbs dried parsley flakes; salt and pepper to taste; 2 cups of  unsalted or low sodium beef broth; 2 tbs butter or margarine; about 2 - 3 cups of flour.
What you need for the coating: 4 eggs and 1/2 cup water; 2 -3cups of breadcrumbs.

What you do:  Cut meat into 1/4 inch x 1/4 inch strips, then into 1/4 inch pieces. Heat butter or margarine in a large pot, and add several tb of flour to make a roux. Add the broth, spices, and all the flour and whisk to eliminate all lumps, and then bring to a boil, so all the flour cooks to make a very thick paste. Add the pieces of meat and stir well. Pour the mixture oout into a 8x8 or 9x13 pan. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours.  Remove the mixture from the fridge and cut into bars about 2 inches long by 1/2 inch wide. You can roll them between your palms to make log shapes. (To make bitterballen, roll mixture into 1 and 1/2 inch diametre balls.)
Break 2 eggs into a flat dish, and add 1/4 cup of water. Place 1 cup of the breadcrumbs into another plate or bowl. Dip each bar into the egg wash, then roll into the bread crumbs. Repeat twice. Add more eggs and water or breadcrumbs as needed. Place the croquettes onto a cookie sheet and place into the freezer. When frozen solid, place into a plastic bag or container to store. Can be stored for up to one year.

To serve: remove as many croquettes as needed. Heat the oil in the deep fryer to 375F. Cook croquettes for about 4 minutes, or until golden brown and heated through. Serve hot with mustard to dip.

As always - enjoy!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Best Gingerbread Cookies Ever

We all are familiar with the gingerbread man story, and the various cookies which can be bought during the Christmas season at every store. I find most of those cookies tough and tasteless. Here is a recipe for a melt in your mouth cookie, which has lots of flavour. I have large (4") and small (2") men and women cutters, but I have also made hearts, circles, stars, etc. with this recipe. I like to make lots of these cookies to hang on the Christmas tree, and if  I know there are children who are going to visit, I make some special people ones with their names written on them. (I would sometimes make a set of these gingerbread people for kids to take to school and share with the class. In that case I would make an individual cookie for each child.) You can let your imagination go wild with the decorations. Icing is a must of course, with several colours, for spreading, drawing and writing. Different kinds of candies, also sprinkles, tiny stars, circles, silver dragee balls, red and green sugar sprinkles, non-pareil, anything you want to add.
**  do not use this recipe for making gingerbread houses, the dough is too soft and it is too rich, so the walls will crumble. I will post the house recipe later.

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled, just roll about a single batch at a time.
What you need (for the cookies): 1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened; 1/2 cup shortening; 1/2 cup white sugar; 1/2 cup brown sugar - dark or demarra is best; 1/4 cup molasses; 1 tsp rum extract; 1 egg - well beaten; 1/2 tsp salt; 2 cups flour; 1 tsp each of baking powder and soda; 1 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice; 2 tsp of ginger.

What you do: In a large bowl, cream the fats and sugars together, then beat in the egg, molasses and salt. In another bowl, mix all the remaining dry ingredients together. Add to the sugar mix in small batches to make a soft dough. Chill an hour in the fridge. Preheat the oven to 350 F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out as many cookies as you can, and place on a cookie sheet. Use a straw to make holes for hanging if desired. Bake about 12 - 15 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown. Re-cut holes if needed while cookies are still hot. Let cool for a few minutes before moving to a rack to cool completely. After cooling completely, thread an 8" ribbon through the holes, and decorate.

Gather all the scraps of dough, knead lightly, then roll again and cut as many more as can fit.  Bake as above. Again gather the scraps and lightly knead, then roll out and use a knife to cut into wedges. Bake as above, but these are the 'reject' cookies that my family got to eat, as they would be a little tough.

What you need for the decorations: all the stuff listed above. If there are children in your home, this is the FUN part. Use various tips to decorate cookies with icing. You can place all the candies and sprinkles on the table for everyone to share. (Be prepared for a huge mess. That is always part of the experience). Decorate each cookie as you wish. We had some 'dressed' with icing skirts or pants, and shirts in a colour, while trims and frills were added in different colours. Some just had the traditional white trims like on "Shrek", with candies for buttons, and eyes. Candies such as shoestring licorice, gum drops, mint leaves, or fuzzy peaches can be cut into smaller pieces to make interesting faces. Finally, all the different types of sprinkles can be added for a unique look. If they are made for it, after all the icing has dried, hang the cookies on the tree.

As always, enjoy. Enjoy the time spent together with those you love. And then, enjoy eating the cookies.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Mint Marble - an original (Christmas) drink

I created this drink about 7 years ago, after my friend, Ed, gave me a shot of white chocolate cream liquor. It was AWESOME! but me, being me, had to add mint. Once again I am guessing at amounts, as I just pour the chocolate until the glass is nearly full, then add the mint. I use a glass from a set we bought that is made for serving Bailey's. Filled to the brim the glass holds 85 ml.

What you need: Creme de Menthe liqueur, and a white chocolate cream liquor such as Godiva.

In a small fancy liqueur glass pour 75 ml of the chocolate liquor.  Add <10 ml of Creme de Menthe slowly, allowing the two liquids to swirl and give the marbled effect. Tastes so good!

Best EVER Hot Cocoa.

I have to confess that this is not my original recipe, as my dad used to make this when we were children growing up in Nova Scotia. It really is the best hot cocoa you will ever taste - a thousand times better than store bought mixes. I am not really sure about the amounts, as I don't measure for this, I just add till it feels and smells right. Makes about 4 cups of cocoa.

What you need: 1/4 cup pure cocoa powder; 1/4 cup sugar; 1/4 cup cold water; 4 cups of milk, (or 3 cups milk, and 1 cup of table cream); 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. As a decadent option, if you enjoy mint and chocolate together, you can use a tsp of peppermint extract in place of vanilla.

What you do: In the bottom of a heavy pot, mix the sugar with the cocoa powder. Add cold water and whisk well to a smooth paste. Add milk and heat gently over medium high, until hot. DO NOT BOIL! Add cream if using, and then stir in vanilla. For kids, you can add mini marshmallows, and a candy cane stir stick.  For adults, you can make the original version and add a shot of Creme de Menthe.  Such a wonderful apres ski drink!!!


Gingerbread Loaf

This is a memory in your mouth! I always find that a piece of warm gingerbread  with a cup of hot chocolate is very comforting in times of stress, or warming on a chilly winter day, or a wonderful snack for the kids after a "play in the snow" day.  . It makes a great gift, I gave one to a new  neighbour, and he told me he had not tasted gingerbread since moving from his mother's house, more that 20 years earlier.

Preheat oven to 350 F

What you need: 2 cups sifted cake flour, (all purpose will work too, but gives a slightly different texture); 2 tsp baking powder; 1/2 tsp baking soda; 2 tsp ground ginger; 1 tsp ground cinnamon; 1/2 tsp salt; 1/3 cup shortening; 1/2 cup sugar; 1 egg, well beaten; 2/3 cup molasses; 3/4 cup sour milk or buttermilk.

Grease a loaf pan with shortening, then add flour and shake to cover shortening well.

Sift flour once, then measure into a medium bowl. Add baking powder and soda, salt, and spices. Sift together three times.
In a large bowl, cream shortening well, then add sugar, egg, and molasses in small amounts, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture in small amounts, and alternating with milk as needed. Beat well after each addition to make a smooth batter.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Place in center of oven. Bake for about 75 minutes.

Serve warm with whipped cream. Also good cold with butter, or use as a change from  regular base for fruit shortcakes.

Candy Cane Cookies

A yearly Christmas tradition, I have been making these cookies for about 30 years. I first got the idea from a Canadian Living cookbook, but as usual, made several changes to make them my own. I usually make 3 batches at once, and combine them to make the cookies. It is a very rich recipe - they melt in your mouth. These cookies make a great impression on kids in the classroom, or are good to give as Christmas gifts.

Preheat oven to 350 F
What you need ( for 1 batch):
1/2 cup (a square) of softened margarine or butter; 1/2 cup shortening; 1 cup white sugar; 1 egg; 1/2 tsp salt; 1 tsp peppermint extract;1 tsp baking powder; 1 tsp baking soda; 2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra to add as needed for consistancy; red and green food colour.

What you do: beat together the margarine and the shortening. Beat in sugar.  Add the egg, salt, and mint extract. Stir well. In another bowl mix the 2 cups flour with baking powder and soda. Stir well. Add to sugar mixture in small amounts, stirring until just mixed. Turn out onto a floured board and knead a few times. Divide into 3 equal portions.  (If you make 3 batches, you can simplify this by making each batch a different colour).  Leave one portion white. Add food colour to one portion to make it red, and to another portion to make it green. Add extra flour if the dough gets too sticky. (It depends on the type of colour you use as to if you will need extra flour or not, I find the gel type of food colour, sold at craft or cake decorating stores works the best, and their red is a true red, not pinkish).
Cut each portion of dough into 36 - 48  pieces, depending how large you want the cookies to be. Roll each section of dough into a small snake - just like playdough - and then twist one piece of each colour together, and place on a cookie sheet in a cane shape. (This dough is very soft and easy to shape).  Place with lots of space in between, as they spread out a lot! I usually get 8 cookies on a regular cookie sheet.

Bake each cookie sheet about 10 - 12 minutes, or until the cookies begin to brown along the edges. Carefully remove to a rack to cool. (They break easily). Store in airtight tins or containers. (In my house they have to be hidden, or they don't last the afternoon. As soon as the kids would smell mint they would go hunting.)


Friday, 30 November 2012

Super Salmon Veggie Quiche

Yeah, yeah - I know "real men don't eat quiche" except, mine will and do. A quiche make a light dinner or a hearty lunch. It goes well with a tossed salad or a plate of raw veggies and dip. This can also be combined with a light soup for supper.
I came up with this idea to use left over salmon, because every time I bake a salmon, I have some left over. You can add almost anything to a quiche, kind of like the leftover rice pancake dish I posted earlier. You can use homemade pie pastry or frozen pie shells. They work equally well. If you are gluten free, you will have your own type of pastry shell. I confess I have never made a gluten free pie dough.

Preheat oven to 450F

What you need:1 unbaked pie shell; about 1 and 1/2 cups cooked salmon, broken into bite size pieces, or flaked; 4 whole eggs, (or 2 whole eggs and 1/4 cup egg whites); about 1 cup of milk( for extra richness you can use 1/2 milk and 1/2 cream); 1 cup of shredded veggies, (carrots, zuchinni, broccoli); 1 tbs minced onion, 1 tbs minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste; 1 tbs parsley flakes, and 1 tbs snipped chives; 1 cup of your favourite grated cheese, ( cheddar, edam, or gouda work well).

What you do: Spread the salmon over the bottom of the pie shell. Add grated vegetables and cover with grated cheese. In a medium mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then add seasonings, herbs, and milk. Stir well. Pour carefully over the cheese. It will fill nearly to the top of the pie shell.

Bake 15 minutes at 450 F,then reduce heat to 350 F and continue baking for 30 - 35 minutes, or until the egg is completely set. Cut in wedges, and serve warm. Can also be eaten cold the next day, -(or reheated gently).

 As always - enjoy.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Stuffed Peppers

This is one of those classic comfort food dishes, with the whole meal in one dish. It has vegetables, rice and meat with various spices, that you can adapt and change according to your personal taste.

What you need: 2 or 3 sweet peppers, any colour you like or a variety; 600 gr lean ground beef; 4 cups cooked rice; 1/2  cup finely chopped onion, ; 2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced; 1 cup crushed tomatoes or 1 small can of tomato paste mixed with one can of water; a block of cheddar cheese; salt and pepper to taste, 2 tbs of parsley or cilantro flakes, and/or any other spices you wish to add.
Heat oven to 350 F

What you do:  cook the beef in a skillet until well cooked through. Add all your spices, onion, garlic, salt and pepper, parsley. Stir well. Stir in cooked rice and tomato sauce. cut peppers into sections, and remove the pith and seeds. Fill each piece of pepper with the meat blend. There are usually lots more of the mixture than will fit into your pepper pieces, so take any extra meat mix and smooth onto the bottom of a small baking pan. Place all the pepper pieces on top of the baking pan. Slice cheese and place one slice on each piece of pepper. Place into the oven and bake for about 45 minutes.

Serve hot with a good wine or  beer. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Breakfast casserole

I do a breakfast for St Luke's outreach school in Okotoks twice a month. I am always looking for new things to try, and found this idea on another cooking website. I made a few changes - as always - and it was a big hit.
It has hashbrowns, bacon, cheese and eggs. How can you go wrong?

Preheat oven to 400 F.
What you need:  4 cups of frozen hashbrowns; 2 tbs margarine or butter; 6-8 slices of bacon; 6 eggs; about 4 oz of cheese; 1/2 cup milk; 1 tbs onion powder - or 3 tbs minced fresh onion, 1 tbs garlic powder - or 2 cloves of garlic minced; 2 tbs parsley flakes; salt and pepper to taste.

What you do:  Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Remove and add margarine to the skillet. When it is all melted, add the hashbrowns, and season with onion, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Cook until pieces are browned and crispy. Remove skillet from heat. Pour the hashbrowns into a 9 x 13 baking dish. Spread evenly over the bottom of the dish, and set aside. In a bowl, mix eggs with milk. Pour over the hashbrowns. Grate cheese and sprinkle over the baking pan. Chop or break the bacon into bits, and sprinkle over the top of the casserole. Bake for 40 minutes or until the eggs are completely cooked.

Optional: You can do all the prep work and put the casserole into the fridge overnight.** Remove from fridge and allow to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before placing into the oven.  Cut into slices to serve.

Enjoy.  This reheats very well.

** Can also be frozen. If you freeze it allow to thaw in the fridge overnight before cooking.

Sugar Cookies with variations for holidays or Christmas

Sugar cookies are very easy to make, but even more important, they are so easy to change, so you have a dozen kinds of cookie from one basic recipe. This includes lemon, orange, spice, almond, and lots of colours to make pink hearts for Valentines Day, orange pumpkins and black cats for Halloween, Green shamrocks for St Patrick's Day, and of course, tons of Christmas shapes and colours. You are only limited by your imagination - or the cookie cutters you can find.

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Basic recipe:

What you need: 2/3 cup shortening, 1 and 1/2 cups sugar; 2 eggs; 1 and 1/2 tsp salt; 2 tsp baking powder; 1 tsp vanilla - clear vanilla if you have it. (food colour is optional, depending on the season)

What you do: Cream shortening with sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla.(Add colour if using) Mix flour, baking powder and salt. Add in small amounts to the sugar mix, until just blended. Over mixing makes for tough cookies.  Chill dough for 30 minutes. Roll out on floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut with cookis cutters into desired shapes. If you want to use them for decorations on the Christmas tree, use a straw to make holes in the cookies before baking. 
Bake 12  - 15 minutes, or until edges are starting to brown.

Can be decorated with icing, and other toppings - non-pareil, sprinkles, candy dots, stars, silver balls, etc.

To adapt this for other flavours, substitute the vanilla for other flavours as below.

Lemon cookies - use 2 tsp lemon extract,add 2 tbs lemon juice,  2 Tbs lemon zest, and a few drops of yellow colouring. Roll, cut and bake as above.

Orange cookies - use orange  in place of lemon extract, juice and zest, and add yellow and red colour to create the orange you like best. Bake as above.

Spice cookies - to basic recipe, use 1 tsp rum flavouring in place of vanilla, and add 1/2 tsp each of nutmeg, allspice, and 1 tsp cinnamon. Bake as above.

Almond cookies - to basic recipe, use almond flavouring in place of vanilla, add 1/2 cup slivered almonds.

Peppermint cookies - to basic recipe, use peppermint extract in place of vanilla, and colour with red or green. You can add 2 tbs of crushed candy canes, or top with crushed candy canes after baking.

Chocolate cookies - to basic recipe add 1/4 cup cocoa powder, and a little water or milk if need to make a good rolling consistancy. Bake as above.

Peanut Butter Cookies

First recipe I ever made on my own, at age 8.  Preheat oven to 350 F

What you need: 1/2 cup margarine; 1/2 cup peanut butter; 1/2 cup sugar; 1/2 cup brown sugar; 1 egg; 1 and 1/2 cup flour; 1 tsp baking soda.

What you do:  In a large bowl, cream peanut butter with margarine, then beat in egg. Add sugars and mix well. Add 1 cup flour in small amounts. Add baking powder to the remaining flour, and add to mixture in small amounts until dough is well mixed. Roll dough into small balls, and place on cookie sheets. Press down with a fork in a cross pattern. Bake 12 minutes or until edges start to brown and centers are dry when tested with  a toothpick.  

Scotch Broth soup - with gluten free variation

Some friends came for lunch a few weeks ago, and asked for this recipe. This one is out of my first cookbook, written when I was between 8 and 12. Any of you with Scottish blood should be very familiar with this hearty soup, based on lamb or mutton - which is a staple in Scotland. Campbells actually makes a good version of this, but it has too much salt for me these days.

What you need: 1 kg of lamb or mutton (shoulder works well), with or without the bone; 1 large onion; 2 cloves garlic; 3 ribs of celery, with the leaves; 3 carrots;1/2 cup pot barley; 3 - 4 TBs parsley flakes; 1 bay leaf, 2 litres water; salt and pepper to taste.

What you do: Cut the meat off bones (if using bone -in) and chop into bite size pieces. Peel and chop onion, peel and mince garlic. Peel and chop carrots into small cubes, and slice celery stalk thinly. I usually leave the leaf part of the celery whole, so I can remove the leaves before serving.
 Heat a little oil in a skillet, and sear the meat, then add onion and garlic. Place bones into a stock pot and add water. Bring to a boil. Add seared meat, and all the vegetables. Add barley and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Return to boil then reduce heat and simmer for several hours, until veggies are tender, and barley cooked. Adjust seasonings as needed.

Goes well with fresh biscuits, or crackers. Enjoy.

If you are gluten free, omit the barley and add 3 chopped potatoes.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Tourtière - (the filling is gluten free)

Every year our church has a pie sale, and for the last few years I have been making the traditional pies called 'Tourtière'. They are from my French Canadian background, and are usually served on Christmas Eve after Midnight Mass, during the celebration of 'Reveillon'. Every town, or perhaps, every family in Quebec has their own version of this classic pie. They are very filling, as they contain meat and spices. Some people add potato, as I do, and some do not. The meat can be pork, beef, veal, lamb, or a combination of any of them. I have not heard of a version with poultry, but there is a different pie for the birds, called `rappé pie`. Here is my version of Tourtière. I will have to work on finding - or creating - a gluten free dough recipe.

What you  need: pastry for one double crust pie; 300 gr lean ground pork; 300 gr lean ground beef; 1/2 package (375 gr) of frozen shredded style hash browns; 1/4 cup minced onion; 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced; 1 tsp each: ground cinnamon, ground coriander, and dried summer savoury leaves; 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, or 2 tbs dried; salt and pepper.

What you do:  Cook beef and pork until cooked through, stirring to break up the pieces. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place meat in a strainer and drain off the juices. Place the drippings into the fridge, and allow the fat to congeal. Place meat in a large bowl. Add potatoes, onion, garlic, herbs and spices. If fat layer has hardened, remove drippings from fridge.  Lift off fat, and pour any juices back into the meat mixture. Stir the filling well, and taste, adjusting seasonings to your preference. Place bottom pie pastry in pie plate. Fill with meat mixture. Moisten edges of pastry, and cover with top crust, sealing and fluting edges. Make several cuts in top crust, to allow steam to escape.

Bake at 450F for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350F and bake for 30 minutes more.
This can be served hot or cold, but I like it hot best. Enjoy.

This recipe also freezes well.

Stuffed Salmon (another gluten free dish)

I have been making this recipe for over 28 years, and have had many compliments from guests. It is a little more time consuming, so usually save it for when we have company. It can be done in the oven, or on a BBQ, so it is a year round treat. This is a 'start early in the day' production. The most important thing about cooking fish, is to get it cooked without over-cooking. This can be very tricky, and I still have days when I left it too long. When over cooked, fish becomes dried, and difficult to swallow. The perfect point of cooking is when the flesh is just opaque, but still moist and very tender. If done right, it just melts in your mouth.

What you need:  1 whole salmon, 4-5 pounds (head and tail removed if you wish); 1 cup of raw wild rice, 2 cups of raw long grain white rice or brown rice; 1 small onion, 3 - 4 cloves of garlic; a bunch of fresh parsley; 2 lemons; salt; pepper; 2 tbs 'herbes fines' , or your favourite blend of herbs.

About 4 hours before serving time, cook wild rice in 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Set aside in remaining cooking water.

Peel and mince the onoin and garlic. Heat a little butter, margarine, or oil and gently saute the onion and garlic until transparent, but not browned.

Cook white or brown rice as directed on package. Finely chop the parsley.
Add wild rice to other cooked rice, reserving cooking liquid from wild rice. Add sauted onion and garlic, and season with salt, pepper, parsley and the fine herbs.

Remove wrappings from salmon and wash well in cool water. Place on a large doubled sheet of heavy duty foil, which is long enough to enclose the whole fish. Season inside and outside of the fish with salt and pepper. Stuff cavity with rice mixture. Thinly slice 1 lemon, and place slices on top of fish. Roll the fish to the other side, and repeat with second lemon. Tightly wrap the foil, folding edges together to seal. Place remaining rice mixture in an oven safe crock or baking dish. Add cooking liquid from wild rice to about an inch depth. Cover tightly with foil.

Oven baking - Place fish on a cookie sheet to bake in oven, and bake about 15-20 minutes per side at 350 F. Place extra stuffing in oven to keep hot. Check for doneness, by slicing into the fish to see if the flesh in opaque. the industry says cook fish for 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Use that as your guide, because the fish will take more or less time depending on it's size.

If using the BBQ  preheat at maximum. After initial heating, reduce to about medium heat. Place foil wrapped fish directly on rack, and place extra stuffing on upper rack to keep hot. Turn whole package over after 10 minutes. Check the fish after 10 minutes for doneness.

To serve, peel back top side of the skin. It should separate fairly easily from the flesh. Use a metal spatula to lift the meat from the ribcage and spinal bones. When all the usable meat is removed from the top side, turn fish and repeat to get meat from other side. Serve with the rice mixture and a salad or cooked vegetables of your choice. Also, I usually make a Hollandaise sauce to go with this. I make it from scratch, but there are also many mixes available at the market. The recipe I use is from the Vancouver 1986 World's Fair cookbook, so I am not able to share, as I do not own the rights to it.
Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Shepherd's Pie - (with Gluten free version)

Was looking on and found lots of recipes for shepherds pie, including an upside down one which I will have to try, but they all used canned veggies and canned gravy.  Here is my version - and it is safe for gluten free diets.

What you need:  1 kg of  ground beef, (you can buy lean, but you will drain the fat, so regular is fine, too); 1 small onion, minced; 3 cloves of garlic, minced; 5 or 6 medium potatoes - (about 1 kg), scrubbed and peeled; 2 -4 Tbs butter; 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk; 2 cups of lightly steamed veggies of your choice (you can also use 2 cups of frozen veggeis) - peas, carrots, broccoli, green beans; salt and pepper to taste; 2 Tbs dried parsley flakes; 2 cups of homemade gravy. (I make gravy, or save drippings, from almost every cooked meat, and freeze leftovers for soup, stews, or recipes like this. Of course I sometimes do use mixes to add to pan drippings for gravy, but people who are gluten free  can't use those.If you are gluten free, thicken your gravy with 1/3 corn starch and 2/3 potato flour. It tastes great, and looks very much like traditional gravy.)

What you do: Bring potatoes to a boil in a large pot, and simmer until soft enough  to mash. While you boil the potatoes, brown the beef in a large skillet. Drain the liquid into a bowl. Put 1 Tbs of beef dripping back into the skillet, and add minced onion and garlic. Cook until just softened and fragrant, then add the beef. Stir well. Add salt and pepper. Prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish, by greasing it lightly with removed fat. (Then place the pan drippings in the fridge to let the fat congeal. You can lift the fat off and use the broth under it to add to your gravy,). Drain and mash potatoes with enough butter and milk to make a smooth mix.

Place the cooked beef, onions and garlic on the bottom of the prepared pan, spreading it out evenly. Add cooked vegetables in an even layer. Add parsley, then pour the gravy over all. Spoon the potatoes on top and spread to cover entire dish.

Bake in 350F oven for 40 minutes.  This is another one of those great comfort foods for a cold winter day.

Serve and enjoy.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Special Fried Mushrooms - (Gluten Free)

Wil makes several varieties of side dishes with mushrooms, but I usually just do this. I have no idea how it tastes, because I am deadly allergic to mushrooms, however most of my family loves them. Only one son is also allergic.

What you need: 200 gr of mushrooms per person; 1 Tbs margarine for frying; pinch of salt and 1/4 tsp pepper per person, 1 Tsp each of dried minced onion and garlic per person; 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of crushed red chillies per person.

What you do:  wash and slice the mushrooms. Heat the margarine in a  skillet, Add sliced mushrooms and cook over med high to brown. Stir often to get all slices browned on both sides. Add all the spices, and reduce heat, continue cooking for 4 - 5 minutes, stirring a few times. Serve.

Wil cooks these on the BBQ sometimes, and if you want to do that, you will need a heavy bottomed pot which is cast iron, or enamelled iron. You do the same thing, basically, but when the browning is finished, place the pot on the top shelf of the BBQ and cover to finish cooking.

Elegant Chicken in Sauce

This one came as an accident, when trying to make something else, but I like it enough to keep the ingredients and method to use again. We had it last night, so pictures are below. This can be served over noodles or rice.

What you need: 3 chicken breasts, cut into long strips; a flour dredge* see below; 2 Tbs margarine for cooking; 1/2 cup white wine, about a cup of water, and 1 envelope of chicken stock - Oxo or similar, or 1 cup of chicken broth.

Flour dredge - here are 3 variations:(use rice or potato flour  in place of all purpose to make it gluten free).

Spicy -  1/4 cup flour; 1/2 tsp salt; 1/2 to 1 tsp pepper; 1 tsp each onion and garlic powder; 1/2 tsp each chilli powder, cumin and corriander - or a Tbs of a cajun blend of spice.

Herb -  1/4 cup flour; 1/2 tsp salt; 1/2 to 1 tsp pepper; 1 tsp each onion and garlic powder; 1/2 tsp each ground sage, rosemary, thyme and basil; 1 Tbs crushed dried parsley leaves.

Garlic Lovers - 1/4 cup flour; 1/2 tsp salt; 1/2 to 1 tsp pepper; 1 tsp each onion and garlic powder; 2 Tbs of garlic dip mix, or 2 Tbs of a garlic spice blend - such as Dean and Cobbs Spicy Garlic.

What you do:  Make the drege by mixing all the ingredients in a flat bottomed glass dish. Dip chicken pieces one at a time to coat evenly with your dredge. Place chicken pieces on a plate and repeat until all are coated. Heat a large skillet to medium high, and add margarine. Add chicken pieces in a single layer to brown. Meanwhile, add the liquids to your dredge mix, and whisk to blend all the flour. Cook in the microwave on high for 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Turn the chicken over to brown other side while sauce is cooking. Remove sauce from microwave, and pour over chicken in skillet. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until chicken pieces are well done. Prepare the side of either noodles or rice while the chicken is cooking.


To serve, place a cup of noodles or 1/2 cup of rice on a plate. Add 2 - 4 slices of chicken, then pour 2 or 3 ladles of sauce over all. Other vegetables or salad completes the meal. Wil has special fried mushrooms with his. My friend K.L. came over and ate, too. She got a shock with the mushrooms, as they had more kick than she was expecting. That recipe  will be in the next post.

We also had the spinach salad with the chicken and noodles.

Easy Spinach Salad - (Gluten Free)

Spinach salad is one of the easiest ones to make, except for a bag of pre-tossed salad, (and I am know to buy those, too). The salad is colourful and has a wonderful variety of flavours. It goes with nearly any meat and starch combination.

What you need: 3 cups of washed spinach leaves; 5 strawberries; 2 Tbs of sliced or crushed nuts; a few Tbs of a mild salad dressing, (I used raspberry vinaigrette). Optional, 75 gr or so, of a mild cheese, (I used Havarti, but Brie, Bocconcini or similar will work, too.

What you do:  In a large bowl, place spinach leaves. Hull and slice strawberries, and add to the bowl. Add the nuts and cheese (if using). Sprinkle dressing on just before serving, and toss to lightly coat the salad.

Serve and enjoy.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Seafood Lasagna; or Lasagna Rolls

A great variation for seafood lovers, this recipe uses a cream sauce in place of the tomato one. Think of carbonnera!

What you need: lasagna noodles cooked and cooled - enough for 4 layers in your pan; 2 tbs margarine or butter, 2 tbs of flour; salt and white pepper to taste; 1 bottle of clam juice;  1/2 cup of dry white wine; 500 ml of coffeecream -10% butterfat; 1 block of cream cheese, softened; 1 container - 500 gr of sour cream - (or 250 gr and the same of plain yogurt, blended together); 3 tbs of  fresh, minced onion; dried herbs -(3 tbs parsley flakes; 2 tbs basil leaves; 1 tbs oregano leaves); 2 eggs; 2 cups of cooked mixed seafood - shrimp, clams, scallops, crab. lobster, salmon, cod, or any other fish you enjoy; 500 gr of cottage cheese; 300 gr of grated Parmesan cheese, 300 gr of grated mozzarella cheese.

Preheat oven ot 350F
What you do:  to make the sauce - in 1L.  large glass measuring cup or bowl, melt the margarine or butter in the microwave - about 30 seconds on high - then whisk in flour. add clam juice, wine and cream. Whisk well, then microwave for 3 minutes on high, stirring once.  Add 1 tbs minced onion, and salt and white pepper to taste. Microwave on 50% power for 3 - 5 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened and smooth. Stir in half of the sour cream, or sourcream and yogurt. Keep covered in microwave until ready to use.
Meanwhile, mix the filling. Place softened cream cheese, cottage cheese, second portion of sour cream or yogurt blend, herb blend, and eggs into a large bowl and whisk together. Add half the Parmesan chees and stir. Add seafood and fish, folding into filling mix.

To make Lasagna -  Place 1/3 of sauce into lasagna pan, layer noodles, 1/2 of seafood filling. noodles, 1/3 of sauce, noodles, reamining filling, noodles and remaining sauce. Top with remaining Parmesan and grated mozzarella cheese. Cover and bake 45 minutes. Remove foil and place 4 minutes or so under broiler to brown cheese.

To do a little something different, place 1/2 of sauce in the pan. Cut each lasagna noodle into 2 shorter pieces. Put 2 tbs of filling at the end of a noodle and roll up. Repeat with all the noodles. Place rolls in a single layer in the sauce. Cover with remaining sauce. Add Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese, cover and bake as above.

Serve with green salad and garlic bread. (Also goes great with a good dry white wine.)

Traditional Lasagna

You can use your home made spaghetti sauce to make a wonderful traditional lasagna with only a few adaptions. Some of the kids prefer a simplified lasagna, which omits the spinach and cottage cheese layer, but I love the "real" deal. This is one of those comfort foods which warm you all through, on a cold winter day.

What you need: 1double batch  of spaghetti sauce, diluted with 4 extra cans of water -to make at least 12 cups-, and eliminate the thickener, so it is really runny; dry lasagna noodles - enough to make 4 layers in your pan, - (my pan takes 7 noodles in each layer, so I need 28 noodles); 1 package of frozen spinach or a small bag of fresh spinach leaves; 1 container (500gr) of cottage cheese; 3 eggs; 300 gr of grated Parmesan cheese, divided; 500 gr of mozzarella cheese, grated .

You also need a lasagna pan, or baking dish about 10 x 13 and at least 4 inches deep.

What you do: Thaw spinach if using frozen. Make the tomato sauce. While it is simmering, in a medium bowl, mix the eggs and cottage cheese. Add 100 gr of Parmesan cheese.  If you are using frozen spinach, add it to the mixture, and stir well. In another large bowl, grate the mozzarella, if you bought a block. Be aware that if you buy cheese already grated, it will contain an ingredient to stop it from sticking together - this is usually cellulose, which is another name for gound up wood. I do occasionally use bags of grated cheese, but prefer to grate my cheese at home. Once all your prepped items, (sauce, dry noodles, egg mix, spinach, cheeses) are assembled on your work surface, preheat oven to 350 F. I use uncooked noodles, which is why the sauce is so runny. It provides the moisture to cook the noodles. I have only done this with wheat noodles, so I am not sure it will work with gluten free ones. to be safe you could cook the noodles first and use regular recipe for the sauce. Assembly is the same.

Place 3 cups of sauce on the bottom of pan. Add first layer of noodles, breaking corners to fit if necessary. Add 3 cups of sauce, and second layer of noodles. Add cottage cheese and egg mixture. If you are using fresh spinach arrange leaves on top of the mixture. Add 3rd layer of noodles. Add 3 cups of sauce then last layer of noodles. Add all remaining sauce. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan chees, then all the grated mozzarella. It will be close to the top of the pan.  Cover pan tightly with heavy duty foil. This keeps the liquid content high, so noodles cook, and absorb the extra water from sauce.  Place into oven and cook for 1 hour.  Remove the foil, and place under broiler for a few minutes to brown the top of the cheese. Serve with green salad, and garlic bread.


This recipe freezes well, so leftovers can be cut into single servings and frozen. Alternately, the lasagna can be assembled in smaller baking pans, and frozen before cooking. If you do this, cook the noodles before assembly, and use undiluted version of sauce. 

Spaghetti Sauce

I prefer to make sauce at home rather than buy cans or jars, as I find they have too much salt and way too much sugar in them.

What you need:  1 large can of crushed tomatoes; 1 large can of diced tomatoes;1 can of water;  500 - 600 grams of lean ground beef, 1 small onion, 3 - 4 cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup thinly sliced celery; your favourite blend of Italian spices, or some thyme,  cilantro or parsley, basil,  and oregano; chilli powder or sambal oelek for a little heat; a little flour (or corn starch, if gluten free) to thicken sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Optional, 1/4 cup chopped green peppers, or a small can of spicy pepper mix tomatoes. As an alternative, you could add a cup of your favourite salsa to the sauce.

What you do:  Brown the meat, with onions, garlic and  celery,  on medium high heat, in a large saute pan or Dutch oven until well done. Add salt and pepper. Drain off extra fat. Add tomatoes.  Fill one can with the water, and blend the flour or corn starch  into it. Add to pot.  Stir over medium heat until mixture thickens. Add your spices or herbs, reduce heat to lowest, and let simmer for at least 40 minutes, to allow all the flavours to meld.
Serve over your favourite pasta, like spaghetti, bow ties, etc. along with a green salad and garlic bread.

As always, enjoy.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Rice pancake - (Gluten Free)

This is a great recipe for all those on gluten free diets.  When I lived in Geneva, we had this to use up leftover rice, and I enjoy it, especially the variety that you can have with one simple mixture.

What you need:  2 eggs; 1/4 cup milk or other liquid; 1 cup cooked rice; salt and pepper, herbs and spices of choice, other toppings of your choice.  Toppings can include: 1 Tbs diced onion, 1 clove minced garlic (or more to your taste); 1/2 cup shredded cheese - of any kind; 1 small tomato diced; 1/2 small green pepper, diced; chopped mushrooms, etc - think like omlettes, you can add ANYTHING you like. This one has cheddar cheese, chopped bacon, a little 3-onion dip mix, and chopped cherry tomatoes, with a few chives from the garden sprinkled on top.

What you do:  whisk egg and liquid in a mixing bowl, and add seasonings and rice. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium, and add a little butter, or oil for flavour. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and cook about 4 minutes, then flip the cake. add all the toppings and cook for 4 or 5 minutes more, until egg is fully set. Serves 2.

As always - enjoy.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Camp Veggie Packets with Stick Bread

When the kids were small we spent a lot of weekends and vacations camping. The children always liked to 'cook' their own foods, so there were lots of weiners or kebab meats on long skewers, marshmallows, and bread baked on sticks - all cooked over a campfire. I discovered that vegetables were more likely to be eaten if they were also cooked on the fire, so we developed these foil wrapped veggie packets, which each person could create, using vegetable they actually like. They work because each vegetable is cut to make cooking time similar. For instance - carrots are cut julienne or very thin circles, and zuchinni in larger chunks, as they cook faster.You need a set of very long tongs for removing or turning these packets. I put in baking times from memory, it has been many years since we actually did this (1998), so trial and error are the rule.

Veggie Packets:
What you need: salt and pepper, butter, and a wide variety of fresh vegetables, including anything your family likes. We would have carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, peas, squash of any kind, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, turnip, etc. Cut vegetables, according to density and cooking time needed- as mentioned above, and place into individual bowls. each person picks the vegetable they want, from about 1/2 cup total to 1 cup total - depending on the person's age and size.

What you do:  place each portion of vegetables on a square of heavy duty foil, folded to double thickness. Sprinkle veggies with salt and pepper, and add a teaspoon of butter. Place sides of foil together, and roll over several times to create a seal.  Fold in ends several times as well. Place prepared packets on a rack over coals, or close to the edge of the fire. Turn over and rotate packets to ensure even cooking. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from fire, and allow to cool before eating.

Stick Bread:

What you need: green wood sticks for cooking, prepared bread dough or biscuit mix. (frozen bread dough from the grocery store works really well for this, as it serves as an ice block the first day or so, then can be eaten as it thaws out.

What you do: Cut dough into small portions, about 1/2 cup each. Allow each person to hand roll the dough into a 1 inch wide snake (just like playdough). Wrap prepared dough around a greased stick. Bake about 10 to 12 inches from coals, turning the stick often to ensure even baking all around. Watch carefully to prevent burns.  Bread dough bakes in 4-8 minutes, biscuit dough a little longer, about 6-10 minutes. If you make this for breakfast, you can spread butter, peanut butter, and or jam right on it while still on the stick. Kids like to eat it right off the stick, I prefer to remove mine. Twisting the stick usually loosens it enough to pull the stick out, leaving a bread curl.

Have fun, and enjoy.

Rouladen (Gluten Free)

This is a traditional dish from north western Europe - ( I know they eat it in Holland and Germany, but not sure of other places), and like other traditional foods, there are infinite variations. It is a cheaper, tougher cut of meat, which is why it is sliced so thinly, and cooked for a longer time to make a very tender flavourful meal. Wil and the boys love this served with boiled or mashed potatoes to soak up all the pan drippings. Many recipes call for pickles or other vegetables in the rolled steaks, but we stick with meat and onion.

What you need: 12 thinly cut rouladen steaks - ( you can buy these precut in the Safeway and Sobeys stores locally, but if they are not in your grocery store, you can ask the butcher to cut them. They are about one-quarter inch thick and cut from outside round steak); 1 medium onion, cut in half then sliced into 12 slices, 12 strips of bacon, mustard blend*, and salt and pepper or a spice blend such as Montreal steak spice; 12 toothpicks; 1- 1/4 lb block of margarine, or your favourite cooking oil.

* mustard blend - I like to mix classic Dijon, or Dutch mustard with some 'Bold and Spicy' and a little plain yellow mustard. You make a blend which is to your personal taste. As always I never measure, but just stir until I have about a third to a half cup.

What you do: Find a large flat surface to work on. Prepare mustard mix and stir in your spice blend or the salt and pepper, and slice onion. Stack all the steaks, and put bacon in easy reach. Spread each steak with the spiced mustard blend, then lay bacon strip along the length, fold if it is longer than the steak. Add onion to the widest end of steak, roll from that end toward the narrow end, and fasten with a toothpick. Repeat with all the steaks.
Heat margarine or oil in a large skillet to fairly hot. Add rolled steaks, and brown on all sides. Reduce heat to medium low. Add about a cup of water, and cover pan. Let simmer for 40 minutes to an hour, turning occasionally.
meanwhile, cook your potatoes, and a vegetable of your choice. To serve, place 1 or 2 steaks on a plate and add potatoes and vegetable. Add a ladle of pan drippings, poured over the rouladen and potatoes.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Easy Tomato Salad - (Gluten Free)

One of the great things about tomatoes, is that they are so high in acid, you can make a simple salad with only an oil based dressing. Even kids love this salad, and this one is so easy to make it makes a great first "cooking" experience for kids, too.

What you need:  tomatoes -1 per person; olive oil; oregano, salt, and minced onion* or onion powder.
* if doing the sliced version, it looks really pretty to use a red onion.
What you do:  There are two way to present this salad - either sliced or chopped.

For chopped - cut the tomatoes into small bite sized pieces, and place in a bowl. Add about 1 Tbs of oil for each tomato. Sprinkle with oregano - (about 1/2 tsp dried leaves per tomato), onion, and salt. Cover and place in fridge to allow flavours to blend for about 1/2 hour before serving.

For sliced -  Slice tomatoes and onion,thinly, and arrange in a decorative manner on lettuce leaves on a serving platter. Drizzle oil (about 1Tbs per tomato) over slices. Sprinkle with oregano,  and salt as above. Cover and place in fridge to allow flavours to blend for about 1/2 hour before serving.

Serve and enjoy.

Surf and Turf Burgers

I got the idea for this from an Oprah show, but I tweaked the recipe they gave to give it some of my own style.

What you need:  
for the meat patties:   1 kg of lean ground beef, 1 egg, 1 cup bread crumbs, 1 small onion chopped finely, 1 tbs of garlic, minced, salt and pepper.  optional -1/2 tbs or more of sambal oelek;

for the stuffing : 1 small container, 250 gr, of cream cheese; 1 small can of salad shrimp; 6 -8 large chopped, cooked scallops; 1 cup grated cheddar cheese; 1 tbs parsley flakes.  if you want to be really decadent, you can add 1/2 cup of  cooked crab or lobster meat. seasoning of your choice - salt, pepper, etc.

buns, condiments, and things you like on burgers

What you do:

 In a medium bowl, mix all the stuffing ingredients. Taste and add seasonings. make a log of the cheese mix, about 3" in diametre. Wrap in plastic and place in fridge to chill for at least 1 hour.

Meanwhile, mix the beef with other burger ingredients, and form into 16 balls. Press each ball between 2 small plates, or put into your hamburger press if you have one. Make the meat patties about 5 inch in diametre, and about 1/4 inch thick. 
Remove cheese/seafood log from fridge, and cut off 8 slices about 1/4 inch thick. (You may have more stuffing than you can use in 1 batch, but this stuff freezes well).
Assemble the burgers by placing 1 meat patty then a slice of the stuffing, then a meat patty. Press firmly around the edges to seal the stuffing mix in.

Cook on the grill until meat is completely cooked through. Place on your favourite buns and garnish as desired. As always -- enjoy.


Collette's Best Potato Salad - (Gluten Free)

I have a few friends who say this recipe is to die for, and the best potato salad they have ever had. But you be the judge.

What you need:
5 or 6  potatoes, (you can use any kind you like best, I usually use red potatoes, but have done this with Yukon Gold, new white, and russet also), washed,  (peeled if you like - remember that most of the best nutrients are in the skin), and cut into bite size pieces, and cooked until just tender, but not mushy. Time for cooking potatoes varies, you will know how long it takes for your region;
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped;
6-8 strips of bacon, cook crisp, and crumbled;
4 - 6 large dill pickles, chopped;
10 -12 spikes of chives, cut into tiny pieces - I take them right out of the garden and just wash before cutting;
1 batch of homemade garlic mayonnaise - (or 1-2 cups from a store bought);
about 1 Tbs of yellow mustard;
salt*, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder to taste; optional - a little hot pepper flakes, to taste-
about 3 Tbs dried parsley flakes, (or about double that of fresh chopped);
the secret ingredient -- 1 cup of sour cream.

* you can also use a commercial seasoning salt such as Lowreys.

What you do:   In a large bowl combine potatoes, eggs, bacon, and pickles. In a small bowl, combine all the other ingredients. Stir well. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your preference. When happy, gently fold sauce into the potato mixture. Chill well before serving.

Made some recently for a friend's birthday, and added a few ribs of celery, thinly sliced. It was a good option.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Chocolate Raspberry Dream Trifle

This is a chocolate lovers idea of trifle.

What you need:  1 chocolate sponge cake; 1 small package of raspberry jello, made according to package directions, and partly set; 1 large package of chocolate instant pudding, made according to package directions; 500 ml of whipping cream, whipped as directed below;  1 tbs pure cocoa; 2 tbs icing sugar; 400 gr of your favourite pure chocolate bars, (such as Jersey Milk, Hershey or Lindt - not the kind with nuts, etc in it) or 400 grams of a good baking chocolate* like Bernard Callebaut; 1 cup of hagel sla - (a Dutch pure chocolate sprinkle used on toast - you can get it at any Dutch supply store, or at some European deli's. If you can't find it you can use the chocolate shots sold to decorate cakes, although they are not usually pure chocolate); 1 can of whipped cream, chocolate flavoured if you can find it; 2 tbs of raspberry liqueur; and 2 baskets of fresh raspberries.
If you chose to use Bernard Callebaut, you can use dark, milk or white, or a combination of them all.

What you do: The day before place chocolate bars in fridge to get cold.

Take cold chocolate, and break into small pieces. The most fun and quickest way is to drop (throw) whole packages on the floor -kids LOVE to do this. That way the chocolate is all different sizes and shapes.  Whip the cream with the cocoa and icing sugar. Set in fridge.
 Cut the cake into bite size pieces and place on the bottom and sides of a trifle bowl. Sprinkle liqueur over cake.  Pour 1/2 of partly set jello over cake pieces. Add 1/2 of broken chocolate pieces. Pour in remaining jello. Set into the fridge for about 20 minutes, or until jello is set. Spread 1/2 of chocolate pudding over jello, and add 1/2 of raspberries. Add remaining chocolate pieces. Spread remaining pudding and all but 10 of  remaining berries. Spread whipped cream over everything. Use canned whipped cream to make rosettes around rim of bowl. Decorate with reserved raspberries. Sprinkle hagel sla over everything. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Enoy! - I mean, - really, really, really enjoy.  Ahhhhh chocolate!!!!!

Fresh Berry Trifle

This is not the original way that Jane and Mary taught me to make trifle, but it is a quick and easy cheat. You can substitute any fresh fruit for the berries, and change the jello to a complimentary flavour.  You can use tiny berry sponge cups to make individual trifles instead of one large by layering small amounts of all the ingredients. The possibilities are endless. Have fun with it!

What you need: a sponge or angel food cake; 1 package of berry flavoured jello, made according to package directions, and partly set; 1 package of vanilla instant pudding, made according to package directions; 4 -5 cups of fresh berries, (you can use all of one kind or a mixture); 500 ml of whipping cream, whipped; 1 can of whipped cream for decoration rosettes.

What you do:  Cut cake into small pieces and line the bottom and sides of a trifle bowl. Pour half of jello over cake. Add 1/3 of berries. Pour remaining jello over berries. Set in fridge for 20 minutes until jello sets completely. Spread pudding over the jello mix. Reserve some berries for garnishing top, and add the rest to the bowl on top of pudding. Add the whipped cream. Spread evenly over all the berries. Use the can of whipped cream to make rosettes around the rim of the bowl. Use reserved berries to decorate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour (or more) before serving.


Hamburger Soup

What you need:  1 pagkage of lean ground beef - 500 gr; 1 meduim onion, chopped; 2-3 cloves garlic - minced (or a TBS of minced garlic from a jar); 3 carrots, peeled and sliced; 1/4 cup pot barley; 2 ribs celery - sliced; 4 potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized peices; 1 large can of diced tomatoes; 1-2 tbs fresh herbs* of your choice, (parsley, thyme, bay leaf, cilantro, chervil are some fairly mild flavoured options. You don't want anything too strong). 1,or more, cups of any other vegetables you like, chopped (ie: green pepper, squash, mushrooms, zuchinni, frozen or canned corn, etc. You can add any or all according to your taste.) Salt and pepper to taste.
* if using dried herbs, cut the amount to 1/4 of fresh.
 About 2 litres of liquid -- 8 cups water and 3 cubes (or packet)s of beef boullion, or 2 1 -litre tetra boxes of beef broth, or about 8 cups of homemade beef stock.

What you do: brown the beef in a large skillet. ( I actually sometimes make tiny hamburger patties, and brown those instead - just make as if you were doing hamburgers, only make 1/2 inch patties). Remove with a slotted spoon, and put into a stock pot or a slow cooker. Add chopped celery, onion and garlic to dripping in skillet and cook until just softened but not really browned. Add to soup pot. Add about 2 cups of water to the skillet. Stir well to pick up all the pan drippings. Add to soup pot along with your liquid of choice. Add barley and carrots. Add squash if using a hard variety.  Bring up to a boil and reduce heat until barely simmering. Let cook for 30 minutes, then add potatoes, and any other vegetables. Cook for about an hour. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add  tomatoes, and herbs, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Serve.
If using a slow cooker, let cook on high for 2 or 3 hours before adding potatoes and other vegetables. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add tomatoes, and herbs about an hour before serving time.

Can be served with biscuits, corn bread or crackers.

 As always, enjoy!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Peanut sauce - AKA Saté sauce

Peanut sauce is a very nice accompaniment to any meat dish, but I also have friends who like it spread on bread. We use it as one of our sauces for meat fondue, as well as for various dishes on a Rijst Tafel. which is an Indonesian buffet. When we have guests, I make a large batch, but divide into  several bowls, labelled mild, medium, hot and incendiary. Peanut sauce is also very good served over cooked green beans, or with saté.

Once again, measurments are approximate.
You need :
1 kg jar of natural peanut butter - the kind which has nothing but peanuts in it.
1 jar - same size - of water,
1 small onion minced; 3 -4 cloves of garlic, minced;  about 1/4 cup Ketjap, 2 Tbs lemon juice,  3-4 Tbs  tomato ketchup, 1 and 1/2 Tbs each of laos amd corriander.  Sambal oelek to taste.

In a heavy saucepan pour all the peanut butter, then fill the jar with water and  pour about half the water into the pot. Use a wire wisk to blend well over med low heat. Add onion, garlic, spices, ketchup,  lemon juice, and ketjap. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring constantly, and adding water as needed to make a consistancy like runny pudding. Add sambal. I start with about 1 Tbs, then remove a cup of sauce to a serving bowl. Add 1 Tbs  sambal to the pot, stir well then take 1 cup out, and put into another serving bowl. Add 2 Tbs to the pot, and stir well, Take a cup out and put into a 3rd serving bowl. Add 2Tbs sambal to remaining sauce, then pour into last serving bowl, tasteing to see if it is hot enough - If Wil tastes, it he'll always say "not hot enough, yet".

Beans Goreng

This simple vegetable dish goes great with a meat dish like Babi Kekap, Saté Beef, Indonesian Chicken or Rempah. It can also go on the buffet for Rijsttafel.

What you need -- 2 cups of warm peanut sauce, and 2 cups of hot cooked green beans.

What you do -- pour sauce over beans in a pretty serving dish, and serve.  Now wasn't that easy!!!!!!!

Rempah - Indonesian meat balls

These meat balls have a very special flavour, and go great for the main course of a dinner, or as appetisers, as well as being an important part of a Rijsttafel. They are not the same as Wil's Dutch Meat balls, which are almost baseball sized. I may be able to post that recipe later - if Wil lets me share his secrets. Meanwhile..........

What you need -- 500 gr lean (or extra lean) ground beef; 4 Tbs finely minced onion; 3 cloves garlic minced; 1 cup fine bread crumbs - (or pulsed instant rice for a gluten free version); 1/4 cup finely shredded coconut;  3 tbs coconut milk; 1 egg; 1 tsp each of ground coriander, and laos; 1/2 tsp each ground cumin; and curry powder; salt and pepper to taste. Oil to cook

What you do ---    In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg. Add spices and mix well. Add meat, bread crumbs, and shredded coconut with liquid to make a good consistency for forming meat balls.  Let sit for at least 15 minutes in fridge so flavours blend well. Form into small balls - 5cm diameter. Heat oil at medium high in a large skillet. Brown meatballs all over, then reduce heat and simmer until meat is well done, about 20m minutes. Add to your buffet, or serve with rice or noodles and vegetables.

Gado Gado - Indonesian vegetable platter

Gado Gado is a mixture with cooked and raw vegetables, kind of like a salad platter, with peanut sauce for dressing.

What you need -- 3 cups cooked tiny potatoes; 2 long English cucumbers, sliced; 3 tomatoes, cut into wedges, or 1 box of cherry tomatoes, whole; 1 small cabbage, steamed and cut into 12 wedges; 4 hard boiled eggs, cut into quarter wedges; 2 cups of peanut sauce; 2 cups of steamed bean sprouts.        
What you do -- on a large serving platter, spread beansprouts. Arrange cabbage wedges, tomatoes, and cucumber slices in a decorative way. Garnish with egg wedges and pour peanut sauce all over*. Add to your buffet for Rijsttafel.

*As an option, you could put the sauce into a serving boat, and allow people to add their own. That way you can have several  boats of sauces, with mild to hot versions.

Bali Ikan - Indonesian fish dish

What you need -- 1 large can of crushed tomatoes; 2 large onions, peeled and sliced as for onion rings; 500 - 600 gr of white fish fillets,  (you can use almost any mild flavoured variety such as cod, pollock, haddock, basa); Sambal Oelek; salt and pepper; 2Tbs margarine for cooking.

What you do -- heat a skillet over medium high, and melt margarine. Add onion and cook until transparent and just softened enough to be able to push to the sides of the pan. Increase heat slightly, and add fish fillets. Season with salt and pepper.  Brown on each side about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low, and add tomatoes, and 1 - 5 Tbs of Sambal according to your taste. Simmer for 5 or 6 minutes more, then serve. Can be added as is to your buffet for Rijsttafel, or served over cooked rice or noodles.

Bahmi - Indonesian noodle and fried vegetable dish.

What you need --  a variety of chopped vegetables** such as broccoli, celery, onion, garlic, bok choy, bean sprouts, leeks, and cabbage. Prepare veggies as for Nasi. Also 1 package 375gr of medium noodles, Sambal Oelek, Ketjap, and 2 packets of Bahmi spices, or 1 tbs of your own spice blend*; and oil for cooking.
*Usually includes curry powder, ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric, onion powder and garlic powder, with salt and pepper.

Whay you do -- heat oil in a large saute pan or deep skillet, and stir fry veggies until just done. Meanwhile cook noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles, and place back into cooking pot. Add all the cooked vegetables, and spices. Stir well. Adjust seasonings to taste.  Can be added as is to your buffet for Rijsttafel, or used as the base for a meal with added cooked meat,  or served with beef saté or Babi kekap.

**  I tend to use more white and orange vegetables for Nasi and green ones for Bahmi, but you can use anything you please. You can also add mushrooms to any of these, which, of course, I can't do.

Nasi - Indonesian fried rice and vegetable dish

What you need -- about 2 cups of a variety of vegetables such as cauliflower, carrot,  onion, which are washed and chopped, and about 1 cup of shredded cabbage, and 1 cup of beansprouts; 4 cups cooked rice, (about 2 cups raw); 2 packets of Nasi spices or 1 Tbs of your own blend of spices*; Sambal oelek;  oil for cooking. Eggs if desired.
* Usually includes cumin, coriander, onion, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper,

What you do -- Cook rice in a rice cooker or pot.  Heat oil in a large saute pan or deep skillet. Add onion and garlic, then other vegetables and allow to cook until just tender-crisp. Stir in spices and Sambal to taste.  Add hot cooked rice and stir well. If desired, cook eggs in a separate skillet according to taste, and place cooked eggs on top of each serving of Nasi. As an option, you can add 2 cups of chopped cooked chicken or pork, or a bag of cooked shrimp, to make this a complete meal in one pot.  It can also be served in the simple form, or as another dish on your buffet for Rijsttafel. Usually served with extra Ketjap, and extra Sambal so people can add their own.

Beef saté - Indonesian kebabs

What you need --  500 gr of good quality beef steak such as sirloin or tenderloin, cut into 2cm cubes; marinade [1 cup Indonesian sweet soy sauce; 1/4 cup regular soy sauce;  2 Tbs each minced onion and garlic; 1tsp each ground laos, corriander];  a large plastic container with a tight fitting lid; 16 to 20 stainless steel skewers.

What you do - early in the day - place all marinade ingredients into the plastic container and mix well. Add cubes of beef and stir to coat meat pieces. Allow to marinate for at least 4 hours - the longer the better. Keep in a cool place. About 1/2 hour before cooking time, place 5 or 6 cubes onto each skewer. they can be placed on a broiler rack and cooked in the oven under the broiler, or grilled on the BBQ. Cook to your preferred  level - rare, medium, or well done. I cook about 3 minutes on each side, for rare.

Serve with Nasi or Bahmi and saté sauce for a meal, or add to the buffet for Rijsttafel.

Babi Kekap - pork dish for Rijsttafel

Sorry it took me so long to get back to this - been very busy with kitchen renos.

What you need -  400-500 gr bonless pork, cut into bite size pieces. 1 green pepper, 1 red or yellow pepper  diced; 1 meduim onion chopped; Kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce); 1 tsp each of ground corriander, laos; 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced; oil for cooking.

What you do -- Heat oil in a large skillet, and brown the pork pieces. Add all other ingredients, and cook over med high for several minutes, until veggies begin to soften. Reduce heat, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve over rice or noodles as a meal, or add to buffet for Rijstaffel.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Rijst Tafel - or Indonesian Buffet - basic info.

A little history of Indonesian cooking in our house - Since Indonesia was a Dutch colony for hundreds of years, there were many Dutch people - or people of Dutch heritage - living in Indonesia, when it gained independence from Holland. The new government was not going to be as liberal as the colonial government, so many thousands of people moved from Indonesia to Holland, bring the unique flavours and cuisine with them. If you are ever in Holland, (or The Netherlands - it's proper name) and you go to a 'chinese' restaurant, chances are it will be Indonesian cooking. Since my husband grew up in The Netherlands, he had Indonesian cooking from a very young age, and that includes very hot spices. So as a good little wife, I learned to cook Dutch and Indonesian dishes.

Rijst tafel is a wonderful variety of traditional dishes, which gives guests the opportunuity to try small amounts of new foods. Some are very spicy, while others have new flavours which are mild. There are many familiar ingredients, meats, and vegetables, with a few spices not very common in Canada.
Once, early in our marriage, I remarked to Wil,"Did you ever notice that those who live far from the equator have food without hot spices, while the closer you get to the tropics, the hotter the food gets"? His reply- "They had no fridges or freezers, dear. They had to keep it safe to eat somehow!"  Well, DUH! Lots of items were dried, and some were preserved in HOT spices.

Wil loves heat in his food. In fact the hotter the better, as long as there are lots of layers of favours. Heat by itself is not very good. Many people are not familiar with the Schofield Scale, which measures the relative heat of capsicum, a chemical that makes hot peppers hot. The scale goes from 0 for bell peppers, up through 200 for anaheim,  400 for jalapeno, 700 for serrenos, 9000 for sambal peppers and 10,000 for habaneros and Scotch Bonnets. So, those jalapenos that burn your tongue are relatively mild for peppers.

CAUTION   ---- Those with peanut allergies should stay away from most Indonesian recipes, as they are made with lots of peanut sauces, and usually cooked in peanut oil.
When I plan a rijst tafel, I like to include a beef,  pork, chicken, fish, vegetables, rice, and noodles. I would probably have Beef Saté with peanut saté sauce, Babi Kekap, Ajam Pedis, Rendang, beans goreng, Nasi goreng, Bahmi groenten, Bali Ikan, Gado gado, atjar tjampoer, and lumpia. Spices used would be  onion, garlic, lemon grass, Javanese curry, galengal, corriander, cumin, ginger, turmeric, sambal oelek, sweet soy sauce (called kekap manis).  I can almost here you saying -"Wait a minute - What are all those things"? Or "where can you get all those spices"?

Beef satay - marinated cubes of meat on a skewer and grilled.
peanut satay sauce - as on a previous recipe.
Babi kekap - cubed meat (usually pork) cooked in a sweet soy sauce with onion and sweet peppers.
Ajam Pedis-(aka Indonesian chicken) - legs or wings marinated in sweet soy and spices then baked or grilled.
Rempah - meatballs made with spices and coconut
Beans Goreng - steamed green beans with peanut sauce poured over them.
Nasi Goreng - stir fried vegetables with rice - often served with a fried egg on top
Bahmi Groenten - stir fried vegetables with noodles also
Bali Ikan - white fish cooked in an onion and tomato sauce with lots of sambal oelek
Gado Gado - a mixture if steamed and raw vegetables covered in peanut sauce
Atjar Tjampoer - a bottled Indonesian pickle relish
lumpia - Indonesian style egg rolls

The spices are available at some grocery stores, delicatessens, or Dutch specialty stores. Conimex is the brand most available in Canada. I can get mixes for Nasi and Bahmi at the Dutch Cash and Carry store in Calgary. They may be available at other places, like the dollar store on Elizabeth St in Okotoks, or at Karl's Meat Market in Abbotsford.  Matthew says he found a place for Dutch stuff in Edmonton, but I don't know the name of it. I also buy spices at some of the large Asian food markets in Calagary. Individual recipes will follow on future posts.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Swiss Cheese Fondue

I said in an earlier post that I would give the recipe/instructions for a Swiss fondue. Here it is.

Swiss fondue uses 2 wonderful Swiss cheeses, Gruyere and Emmental.  The classic blend of garlic, wine and cheese is a staple in the Swiss home. In fact they have a saying - "The week is lost without fondue". It sounds better in French -- "Semaine perdue, sans fondue". It is important to have very dry wine.  Also, cheese will separate when melted if you do not put a binding ingredient, such as flour or corn starch. The bread should be very fresh, and plan on about 1/3 to 1/2 loaf per person.

There are other cheeses which make great fondue, but not every cheese is suitable. The best cheeses to use are firm. Cheddar cheese makes a great fondue, but it a totally different experience than the Swiss fondue.

What you need - about 200 grams of cheese per person, it can be a blend of Gruyere and Emmental, or the cheese sold in grocery stores which is labelled Swiss cheese; a bottle (or more) of good, very dry white wine; 2 cloves of garlic; 2 Tbs of flour or cornstarch, 1 Tbs Kisrch, (optional); 1  loaf (or more, depending on how many people you are feeding) of french bread, cut into 1 inch cubes.

Grate all the cheese into a large bowl. Add the flour or cornstarch, and stir to evenly coat all the pieces with the flour. Peel and cut the cloves of garlic in two. Take a heavy saucepan, and rub garlic over all the bottom and sides. Then put garlic through a press. Pour about 1 cup of wine into the prepared pot, and add garlic. Heat over medium high, until wine begins to come to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and, stirring contantly, begin to add cheese in small amounts. Stir until it is completely melted before adding the next amount. Continue adding small amounts until all the cheese is melted. Add extra wine if needed to maintain a good consistancy. If you are serving children, some of the additional wine can be replaced with grape or apple juice, to sweeten the fondue a little. When the fondue looks ready, add the Kirsch, if using.
As an option, you can blanche some broccoli, and cauliflower, and dip those into the cheese.
Set the hot cheese on the tabletop burner, and set it to low heat. Each person dips bread into the melted cheese. This can be served with a green salad, and wine to drink. As always, enjoy.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Scarborough Fair Stew

When I was about 12, I spent a lot of time playing a recorder - as did every kid at HGMS - and Scarborough Fair was one of my favourite songs. I was thinking about the refrain and decided to try using those four herbs in a recipe - and voila! Scarborough Fair Stew was created.

What you need - 500 gr of stew beef, 2 Tbs bacon grease, 1 small onion, 1 rib of celery, 3 carrots, 4 med potatoes, 1 small rutabaga, 1/4 cup pot barley, salt and pepper, 1 tsp each of dried whole leaf herbs - parsley, sage. rosemary and thyme. If you have fresh herbs, all the better - use about 3 Tbs chopped of each.  Optional - 2 cloves of garlic minced.

2 ways to cook this - either in a Dutch oven, or a slow cooker. Method is similar for either way.

In a large skillet, heat bacon grease and brown the meat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile peel and mince onion, (garlic, if using), thinly slice celery, and peel and chop root vegetables. Place all these into the Dutch oven or slow cooker, and stir. Add browned meat with pan drippings. Add 2 cups of water, barley, and herbs. If using slowcooker, turn on to low power* and cook 10 -12 hours, stirring occasionally. If you are in more of a hurry (as in OMGoodness, I forgot to start the stew before I left this morning!!!!) - cook on high for 6 hours, or use the Dutch oven. If using Dutch oven, place on lowest heat on  smallest burner and cook for 3 - 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

To make this gluten free- omit the barley.   Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Endive Au Gratin

Here is a fairly simple recipe for a vegetable and cheese dish, which I learned in Switzerland.

What you need: 1 batch of white sauce, (recipe follows); 6 Belgian endives; 6 slices of ham; 2 cups of grated cheese, (originally swiss, but any kind you like); 1 package of noodles, cooked according to package directions.

Preheat oven to 350F. Make white sauce. Meanwhile, cook endives in a steamer or in boiling water for 10 minutes, or until tender.  Drain the endives. Wrap each one in a slice of ham and place in an oven proof baking dish. Pour white sauce over all the wraps. Cover with grated cheese.

Bake for 25 minutes, then turn broiler on for 5 minutes to create a lovely golden crust.

To serve, place noodles on a plate, and add 2 or 3 endives and some extra sauce. Goes great with a dry white wine.

This was my dinner tonight. I used a blend of Emmental and Gouda cheese.

White sauce - although usually cooked on the stovetop, I find that my microwave is the best place to make any kind of sauce which needs to be thickened. It cooks evenly, and without lumps.

What you need: 2 Tbs butter or margarine, 2 Tbs of easy blending flour, white pepper and Aromat* to taste, 1 cup  of cream or milk.

In a large glass bowl or measuring cup, (about 4 cup size), melt butter or margarine in microwave for 1 minute on med high heat. Add flour, and whisk together. Whisk in the cream or milk. Add seasonings. Cook on high for 3 minutes, stirring at half time. Cook on medium low for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring every minute, or until sauce is smooth and reaches a thickness like yogurt. Use in recipe, or serve over vegetables.

*Aromat is a flavouring blend made by Knorr. It comes in a little yellow tin. It contains salt, onion and garlic, but also MSG, so if that is a problem for you, Aromat can be replaced by a little salt, onion powder,  and garlic powder. 

Friday, 16 March 2012

Elegant Entertaining - Fondue

I could probably write an entire book on fondue. This is one of our favourite ways of entertaining a small to medium group of friends. Everyone can sit there for a couple of hours, exchanging stories, jokes, and opinions, along with wonderful food, in a casual and fun atmosphere. A fondue can be small and intimate or wildly extravagant - a simple family meal, or larger group, because you are only limited by your space and equipment. It is best to get as much prep work done early in the day, then when guests arrive, you can sit down and enjoy the fact that they all have to cook their own meal, while you get all the credit! 

In general no more than 4 people per pot is recommended. Any more than that, and things get too crowded, not to mention that the pot cools off too quickly as items are added to cook. There are many kinds of fondue, including our favourites of meat, fish, and cheese. I know many people love chocolate fondue, but I have never actually done that - interesting for a chocoholic! I have heard of people who have in one fondue party - cheese, then meat, then chocolate, but I choose not to combine, because I think they take away from each other.  

So...... fondue 101 ----- What you need - a heat source (flame, or electric), pot, and fondue forks -(at least one per person, but we use 2 or 3), as well as regular plates, knives and forks for each person.
Over the years we decided that commercially produced fondue burners are not really functional. First - they are difficult to fill with the alcohol, and there is almost always a spill.  Second - they don't burn for very long ( about 20 minutes) before running out of fuel, and they MUST be absolutely cooled before they can be refilled. This means that you need at least two burners for each cooking pot, so one can be ready to go as the first runs out of fuel.  We discovered that small tabletop butane burners work best for us. They are a bit of a luxury, ( about $30 to $35 each - available at any hardware store), but they are so convenient, and we use them 8 to 10 times a year. They also come in handy of you have an electric stove and the power goes off.  In fact Ben just borrowed two, because the power was off and he needed to cook dinner. Of course, some basic safety rules apply, especially if children are part of the group. I tend to keep fondue for kids at least 8 because they have a good awareness of fire dangers. (Teeny people - under 2 are also usually safe because they are very closely supervised, and Mom or Dad cook for them.)
So what kind of fondue do you start with? Your choice , but here are some ideas for the primary types.

Meat Fondue - I don't say beef because at our house fondue is a feast involving several kinds of meat.
Usually, there are several kinds of sauces for people to dip the cooked meat in. I also serve good fresh bread - french loaves and whole wheat, or multigrain; salad or raw vegetables; and sometimes mini roasted potatoes. Of course, good wine is always a part of the meal!

Broth or oil? Again the choice is yours.

 Oil is more well known, but there are some major drawbacks. Hot oil can splash and burn people very easily. It is also very dangerous to carry a pot of hot oil from stove top to table. Yes, I know, a pot of hot broth is also hazardous, but scalds are not quite as bad as oil burns. Aside from that, I think broth is healthier. Oil can also leave an unpleasant odour in the house, not to mention leaving a scum on walls, ceilings, and furniture. I have even heard of people who put both on the table, broth to cook the meat, and oil to deep fry battered vegetables. We usually use broth, and cook vegetables in it too.  If you choose oil, it needs to be an oil which can be heated to high temperatures before it hits it's smoking point - peanut oil is the best choice if you are not allergic, but corn oil and safflower oil are good, too. Never use olive oil, as the ignition point is relatively low, and it tastes very bitter if heated to boiling point.

Broth - I make broth from soup bones and a little meat for flavour. I also add some celery, carrot, and onion. I make the broth early in the day, and let it simmer for five to eight hours.  I have also used store bought broth, especially since January. 

Sauces - We usually have five or six types of sauce made from a mayonnaise and yogurt base. You could also use sour cream instead of yogurt. I mix about one and a half cups of each, then divide the base into small serving bowls with a spoons in them. Some flavours are:
1)  2 Tbs each of finely minced onion and garlic
2)  1 Tbs of whiskey or brandy and 2Tbs ketchup
3)  1 Tbs Dijon mustard
4)  1 - 4 tsp of curry powder - depending on how hot you like it
5)  1 Tbs minced jalapeno pepper and 1/2 tsp cumin
6)  1 Tbs minced onion and 3 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese

Barbecue sauce and peanut sauce are staples on our table. You could also use any commercial sauce that you like, such as ranch dressing, or any kind of chip dip. All the sauces are placed around the table, so people can spoon a little of each sauce onto their plate for dipping. Wil likes peanut sauce best. I tend to favour the onion and garlic, or whiskey sauce.

Meat -  about  two to three hundred grams of meat for each person, and can be beef sirloin or tenderloin, chicken breasts, pork tenderloin or boneless loin chops, lamb shoulder or loin, or bison steaks. Use fresh meat, not thawed. Cut the meat into cubes about one to one and a half inches. Each kind of meat is in it's own dish, and then gets passed around. Sometimes, I have to have two containers of each kind of meat.  I make meat balls from extra lean ground beef, and usually have a spicy blend and an herbal blend. Meat is cooked on a fondue fork in the pot by each guest, then transferred to their plate, where a regular fork is used for eating. Basic food safety must be observed, so raw meat never goes on  people's plates. Likewise, fondue forks never go in people's mouths.
There are a couple of traditions we tell people about fondue - that is if a person loses a piece of meat in the pot, they owe the host a bottle of wine; however, if the host loses a piece of meat in the pot, he owes each person at the table a bottle of wine!

Vegetables - broccoli and cauliflower broken into florets, mini carrots, strips of peppers, and mushrooms. (We always have a pot designated as mushroom free). People drop a vegetable into the pot and fish it out when done to their likeness.

After everyone has eaten as much as they can, the left over meats can be frozen, and the sauces put in the fridge to be used for dips with veggies or served over another meal.   Have fun!

Fish or seafood -  Many people have never heard of a fish fondue. We got this idea from some Chinese friends. Because fish has a very delicate taste and texture, you need some different things than a meat fondue. Fish is cooked in a delicate court boullion (another name for fish stock), or chicken broth. I usually have at least one pot with a broth that is very spicy, and the other an herb blend.
 I use cubes cut from fillets of salmon, cod, halibut, as well as seafood such as shrimp, scallops, and mussels. If you are feeling really rich you can add lobster or crab, just be very cautious about safe handling.  Because fish breaks so easily, it can't be cooked on forks like meat. There are tiny baskets available from Asian grocery stores, which we use instead. The vegetables are a little different: mini bok choy, asparagus tips,  and green onions instead of broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower.  The sauces are also more delicate, with lemon, chili and dill taking place of the heavier sauces used for meats.
I will post recipes for those sauces on another blog.

Cheese fondue -  I make traditional Swiss cheese fondue, which I learned to make while living in Geneva. It has white wine, garlic, Gruyere and Emmental cheese, and is served with french bread cubes, salad and of course, good wine! I will put a full recipe for this on another blog also.  Aside from that traditional fondue, there are many wonderful cheeses from all over the world, and they can be used instead of the Swiss ones. Try using cheese that you like, experiment, and most of all ------Have fun and enjoy!


Thursday, 15 March 2012

Fabulous Leek and Asparagus Soup

 I have been making leek soup for many years in the same way as this soup, but I created this with some left over asparagus, quite by accident. My family did not really like it*, but the staff at school loved it! Go figure. I think this would be a really great soup course for a formal dinner.

What you need: Use all the leek except the toughest ends of leaves.
4 leeks, washed well, and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces; one bunch of asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch pieces; about 1 litre of water and several packets of chicken broth crystals, or 1 litre of chicken broth -from a box or home made; 1 medium potato; salt and pepper; 1/2 litre of whipping cream.

In a large soup pot bring broth, leeks  asparagus and potato to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Process the soup in a blender in small batches, until it is all pureed. Add cream and heat until just hot, but do not boil. Serve immediately.

* Ben heard the word asparagus and decided before he tasted it that it would be awful.

Option for simple leek soup omit the asparagus, and use milk instead of the cream.

My Mom's Clam Chowder and Gluten free Clam Chowder

Here are two versions of this traditional Nova Scotia soup. The regular one I learned from my Mom, and the gluten free version I created last year. I once told a friend that baking is science - because you have to balance the acids and bases correctly for your baking to turn out - but that cooking is art. There are many ways to make any recipe your own, by changing one or two things. Experiment and find what you like best.

My Mom's

What you need: 
1 package of bacon - thick cut is best - chopped into pieces about 1 inch long; 4 large potatoes; 1 large onion; 2 Tbs flour ( Robin Hood has an easy blending one which is finer than regular all purpose flour); 4 cans of clams with the juice - or 3 packages of frozen clams and 2 (7oz) bottles of pure clam juice; 1 Tbs dried parsley flakes, or 3 Tbs snipped fresh parsley; 2 cups of milk or light cream; salt and pepper to taste.

In a large soup pot, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy. Meanwhile peel and cut potatoes into bite sized cubes. Peel and chop onion. Drain most of the grease out. Add onion to pot, and allow to cook until just softened, but not browned. Stir in flour to make a roux.  Add potatoes to soup pot with all the clam juices. Add salt and pepper. Bring up to a boil, then add clams, parsley and reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are just cooked. Add milk or cream. Heat to serving temperature and serve. DO NOT BOIL. Cream or milk will curdle if boiled.

If you prefer to use a slow cooker, cook the bacon in a skillet then transfer to your slow cooker, and add onion to the skillet and cook as above. Stir flour into onion, then transfer to slow cooker and add  everything except milk or cream.  Allow to cook 4-5 hours on high, or 8 hours on low. Half an hour before serving time, add milk or cream to slow cooker, and heat on high power for about twenty minutes.

Goes great with homemade biscuits, and salad.

Gluten free version

What you need: above ingredients except - 1/4 cup gluten free potato flakes or 4 Tbs potato flour;  in place of the wheat flour.

Make as directed except for adding flour. Use potato flakes or potato flour to thicken soup as desired just before adding milk or cream. If using slow cooker, add with clams.

Options - change this to a seafood chowder by reducing clams by half, and adding 2 packages of frozen small shrimp, and 1 package of frozen scallops, as well as 5-6 ounces of crab or lobster if you want really decadent soup.
Some people add 1/2 cup finely chopped celery to the onion, but I like it with only onion and potatoes.

Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Heather reminded me of this recipe in a recent e-mail. We udes to call them Dad's favourite cookies, because my Dad loves them so much. You could substitute raisins for chopped dried fruit, or change to white chocolate chips for variety.

Preheat oven to 350F
What you need:
1/2 cup margarine or butter; 1/2 cup white sugar; 1/2 cup brown sugar; 2 Tbs molasses; 2 eggs; 1 tsp vanilla; 1and 1/2 cups rolled oats; 3/4 cup whole wheat flour; 3/4 cup flour; 1 tsp baking soda; 1 tsp baking powder; 1 cup chocolate chips. optional add 1 cup raisins, and or chopped nuts.

Melt the margarine or butter. Add the sugars and liquids. Mix well. Add dry ingredients in small batches until well mixed. Add chocolate chips, raisins and nuts (if using).  Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Bake until golden brown and edges are crispy - about 12 minutes.