Monday, 30 December 2013

Favourite Christmas Brussel's Sprouts

This is one of those foods which people either love or hate. We enjoy Brussel's sprouts just boiled, or steamed, but this  is our favourite way to eat them.
 What you need: 1 bag of frozen Brussel's sprouts, 5 or 6 slices of bacon, chopped, 1 onion, chopped.
What you do: cook the bacon at medium heat,in a skillet, stirring often, until nearly crisp, and then add the onion. Cook until the onion is transparent. Add the sprouts, and about a cup of water. Cover the pan, so the lid is just off slightly, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Most of the water should be gone, but if there is still some there, remove the lid and let the rest of the water cook off. as always, enjoy.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Simple Cheese Sauce

My son called tonight to ask what he needed to have to make cheese sauce, and as I told him the ingredients, I said it is on the blog, but when I checked. I found out it really wasn't, although the basic white sauce is on a post in March 2012.

Once again, this is a very easy to make, and much healthier option to those package sauces. You can even do a gluten free version, if you have a flour blend which you use for gravy.

What you need: 2 Tbs butter or margarine; 2 Tbs flour; 1 cup of milk or cream; salt and pepper to taste, 1 tsp each of garlic and onion powder; and 2 cups of grated cheese, of any kind you like. I would usually use cheddar, or Gouda or a blend of the two.

What you do: In a large glass bowl or measuring cup - at least 1 litre - melt the butter or margarine for about 30 seconds. Add the flour and whisk. Add milk or cream. Whisk well to stir up all the flour blend. Return to microwave, and cook on high for 2 minutes. Add the seasoning, then cook on low for 3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until the sauce begins to thicken. Add cheese in thirds, and cook on low power until just melted before adding the next portion of cheese. When all the cheese in melted, use over cooked vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, or on macaroni.

As always, enjoy.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Chicken Lasagna

I had some cut up chicken breast, which was left over from a fondue, that I decided I should use to try something new. I had Wil and Luc for dinner, and a friend came over, too. I have another friend, who makes a chicken lasagna, which is delicious, so I thought I would try to make one. I looked on line for recipes, and found many, but did not see a combination that I wanted to make. I combined some ingredients from about 5 different recipes, to make something I thought would taste good. Luc told me it passed his taste test, and my friend, Kellie, said it was "Yummy". So here it is. -sorry I didn't take a picture before it was all gone.

What you need: 5-6 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces, some margarine or oil to cook it in, 1-3 cloves crushed garlic,  2 stalks of celery - chopped into small bits, 1/2 a large onion - chopped fairly fine, salt, pepper, 9 cooked lasagna noodles, a large batch of white sauce, or cheese sauce, and 2 cups of grated Mozzarella cheese. (you can use a commercially prepared sauce, such as Knorr Creamy Garlic or Alfredo, or jars of white pasta sauce. You need about 3 - 4 cups of sauce. 
Pre-heat the oven to 350*F
What you do: First put on a large pot of  water, on high heat, to cook the lasagna noodles. Then  heat oil or margarine in a large skillet. Add chicken pieces and cook on high to brown the pieces. Season with salt and pepper, and add chopped celery, onion, and garlic. (If you wish you could add some sliced mushrooms, but I can't eat those.) Add half a cup of water to the pan, then cover and let simmer. Add noodles to the water when it begins to boil. Cook about 9 minutes. Meanwhile, cook your sauce.

To make your sauce - 3 cups milk, 1/2 cup flour, 4 tbs butter or margarine, 1 tsp each of onion powder and garlic powder, 1/2 cup finely grated cheese, salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a large microwave safe bowl. Add the flour, and use a whisk to mix together. Stir in the milk, then microwave on high heat about 3 minutes, stirring every minute. Remove the bowl from the oven, and add all the spices. Return to oven and cook on high for another 5 minutes or so, stirring every minute, or until the sauce is thickened, and smooth. Add the cheese, stirring well, and cook one more minute. An option for your sauce, is to replace 1/2 cup milk with a nice white wine. Some of the other recipes I saw on line used canned soup - either cream of chicken, cream of celery, or cream of mushroom in the sauce. You can use anything that you think will make a smooth sauce which has a good taste.

Assemble the lasagna by putting about one third of the sauce into your lasagna pan. Lay 3 noodles on top of sauce. Add half of the chicken and vegetable mix. Add 3 noodles, then 1/3 of the sauce, the rest of the chicken mix, the last 3 noodles, and the remaining sauce. Add all the grated cheese on top. Put into the oven for about 30 minutes. Serve with a Caesar salad, or  tossed or tomato salad. This should make 6 servings. If you have Luc over, it will feed 4 people.

As always - enjoy.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Easy Cranberry (Fruit) Cheesecake parfait

This is such an easy recipe to make, but it looks wonderful. I have used it for making mini desserts, and the layers look so pretty in the tiny glasses. This is a 2 stage process, so you need to start several hours before serving time. you need time for the bottom layer to set completely before making the second layer, and then time for the second layer to set completely before serving.

What you need :  1 can of whole berry cranberry sauce; 1 8 oz package of cream cheese; 2 boxes of cranberry jelly powder; 1 cup of whipping cream, whipped; water; 1 can of whipped cream topping.

What you do: Boil water, then pour 1 cup of boiling water into a medium sized bowl. whisk in the  contents of 1 box of jelly powder. Stir until powder is completely dissolved. Open the can of cranberry sauce, and add half of the contents into the dissolved jelly. Stir well. Allow to cool to room temperature, and keep stirring to prevent berries from falling to the bottom. Meanwhile, warm the cream cheese in the microwave, until you can stir it easily. Add to the jelly mixture and whisk well, or use an immersion blender to incorporate the chees and jelly into a very smooth mixture. Fold in the whipped cream. Pour into pretty glasses,  just over half full. Cover each glass, and place into the fridge to set for about an hour.  Boil water and add 2nd box of jelly  powder as before. Mix in the remaining cranberry sauce. Stir well. Place into fridge until it just begins to set, checking every few minutes. Remove the covers from glasses with the cheese mixture, and carefully add the cranberry jelly on top. Recover glasses, and put back into the fridge to set completely. When you are ready to serve, place the glasses on a tray, and add whipped cream topping.
Optional: you can place a Tablespoon of graham cracker crumb crust into the glass first if desired. Mix 1 cup of crumbs with 1 tbs of sugar, and 2 tbs melted butter or margarine. Stir well. Press 1 Tbs into the bottom of the glass, using the handle end of a wooden spoon to compact the crumb mixture. Then proceed as above.
If you are taking these somewhere out side, or where the glasses could get broken, you can also use small plastic wine glasses and plastic spoons.

This recipe can be altered for any kind of berry, or fruit which has a jelly flavour, such as strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, grape, orange, lemon, peach, and watermelon.

****CAUTION*** never use kiwi in any recipe which is to be set with gelatine or jelly. Kiwi has a chemical which prevents the gelatine from setting.

Au Gratin update

In March 2012, I posted a recipe for 'Endive Au Gratin', which was a main course dish I originally learned to make in Switzerland. I have since done this with many other vegetables, including kale, sui choy, and broccoli. You can use any vegetable you like, including asparagus, cauliflower, pepper strips, carrots, etc. Let your imagination, and favourite foods guide you. Yesterday I made this for dinner, and I used broccoli, honey ham, Gouda and Swiss cheeses, and a white wine cream sauce. I made rice to go with it.

Broccoli wrapped in ham slices, and then layered in a casserole dish. 15 wraps altogether.


 The White wine sauce, ready to pour over wraps.
This sauce is like the one for Chicken Cordon Bleu, but instead of broth, I used 1 cup skim milk and 2 cups cream, along with 1 cup dry white wine. This makes a very rich flavourful sauce.
Cheese, grated and ready for adding on top. I used 2 small pieces of cheese which were in the fridge, about 200 gr of Gouda, and 100 gr of Gruyere. then I grated them and stirred to blend.

   Sauce on top

And now the cheese, then pop into the oven. It bakes at 350 F for 20 minutes, then under the broiler for about 5, watching carefully, so nothing burns.

Ready to eat, this time served over rice in place of noodles. Very easy to do, and delicious to eat.
Left overs are good to freeze or eat warmed up in the next few days.
Au gratin recipe March 2012, and white wine sauce recipe August 2013

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Boer Kool met Wurst - which is Kale and Potatoes with Sausage

This is a very traditional Dutch dish, which I have learned to make since marrying a boy from Holland. It was always part of the celebrations at 'Carnaval', the party before Lent begins - the Dutch version of 'Mardi Gras'.

For 4 servings.

What you need: 2 large bunches of kale; 1.5 kilos of potatoes; milk and butter, salt, and pepper for potatoes; 4 farmers sausages, the individual size; or 1 kilo of a sausage of your choice; 2 cups of gravy.

What you do: Separate kale leaves and wash them. Cut off the thick centre spine. Prepare and cook potatoes for mashing. In a very large kettle, cover the kale leaves with water, and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Heat sausage in a pan of water, a frying pan, or on a grill. Mash potatoes, and add salt pepper, butter, and milk as desired. Drain the kale. Chop the leaves into small pieces. stir into the mashed potatoes.

Serve sausage and potato mixture with gravy on top.

Raspberry Peach Upside Down Cake

This was a last minute inspiration at about 5 pm yesterday. I had a spice cake mix in the pantry, and just decided to do something with the peaches and raspberries, before Wil left to back to work. Preheat the oven to 350°F

What you need: 3 peaches*, 1 pint raspberries, a spice cake mix, 2 eggs, and 12 oz water - or a mixture of water and peach syrup or juice.

What you do: Grease and flour a 9 x 13 baking pan. Slice the peaches, and arrange in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the raspberries over the peaches. Mix the cake mix with the eggs and water. Beat 2 -3 minutes with an electric mixer. Pour batter over the arranged fruit. Bake about 40 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly pressed, or a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a serving platter. Cut into squares. Serve warm with ice cream or your favourite sauce on top.

Any left overs must be kept in the fridge, or frozen, as fresh fruit get moldy very quickly.

* you can also use canned peaches for this. If you do - first, drain the syrup into a measuring cup, and use that instead of part of your water for the cake mix.

Smoked Roast Beef

We have a smoker in our backyard, and Wil enjoys making smoked meats. We cure our own bacon, and then smoke it. We also have smoked pork roasts, pork chops, chicken breasts, and peppers from our green house.
Last night we enjoyed a lovely sirloin tip roast, with potatoes, 'Boer Kool'*, and asparagus. Dessert recipe follows on next post.

What you need: a 1- 1½ kilo roast, a spice blend of your choice, wood chips and a smoker or BBQ.  

What you do: rub your spice blend all over the roast, covering all sides and the ends. Prepare your smoker or BBQ by lighting coals on fire, and adding wet wood  chips. Allow the coals to settle. Place the roast on a rack about 4 to 6 inches above the smoking coals. Smoke 4 - 6 hours. (Since Wil does all this, I am just making assumptions about the distance.)

After smoking, place the roast into a hot oven - 375°F for 30 - 45 minutes to your favourite doneness. We like rare meat, so I do 25 - 30 minutes.  You can make gravy with the pan drippings if desired, or from a commercial mix. I made 'Hunter Sauce' last night, as Wil loves it. I can't have that, as it is a classic mushroom gravy mix from Knorr. Slice and serve with any side dishes. It goes well with anything, and is even wonderful for beef on a bun sandwiches. 
As always, enjoy.

* Boer Kool is known in Canada as kale. Boer Kool literally means 'farmers cabbage' in Dutch.


Saturday, 20 July 2013

Layered Summer Salad

This is such an easy salad, with infinite variety. I do not add mushrooms, as I am allergic to them, but you can add them, or any other favourite vegetable or fruit to make this your own dish.


What you need: 4 or 5 large leaves of lettuce or sui choy; 1 handful of coleslaw mix; 1 orange; 1 tomato;  ½ onion; about 4 inches of a seedless cucumber; 1 avocado, 2 ounces of any cheese; 3 strips of bacon; your favourite salad dressing.


What you do: Find a pretty plate or small platter. Place the leaves to cover the plate. Place the coleslaw mix in the centre of the plate. Peel and slice the orange in thin slices. Place around the edge of the plate, then in the centre to look pretty. Layer thin slices of tomato and very thin slices of onion on top, then add thin slices of cucumber. Peel and slice the avocado, and add to the salad plate. Cut cheese into small bite sized pieces, and sprinkle over the layers. Cook the bacon until crisp, then crumble. Add to the salad plate. Drizzle your dressing over all.

 This version has a mixed greens base, no bacon, and I added slices of red pepper. It has a homemade dill yogurt dressing.

This salad does not have the onion or cucumber. I used sui choy for the base. The cheese was Baby Bel Edam cut into thin slices. I topped it with a poppy seed dressing from Kraft.

Chicken Cordon Bleu (with gluten free variation)

I invited some friends for dinner, and said I would be cooking 'Chicken Cordon Bleu'. One friend said, "I hear there that on the internet there are recipes so you can make this from scratch". I replied "Absolutely!" I decided that I should add my version of this classic recipe to my blog.
Chicken Cordon Blue is very simple to make, and easy to change for a variety of presentations. It is also very simple to make for a few people or many people. I usually do mine in the oven, but today I will cook it on the BBQ. This can also be prepared in a large frying an, so you can do this while out camping, although you will not have the crispy outside that you get from oven baking. I often make a white wine sauce* to pour over the chicken, but it can also be served with gravy. If you change the ham to bacon(>), or the cheese to another variety, you have a new dish to enjoy. To make gluten free just exchange the flours and crumbs. I find brown rice flour works well, but you can use corn starch or potato starch, too. The best crumbs I have found for gluten free coatings is to crush Rice Krispies cereal.

* recipe follows          
>lightly cook bacon, if using it, before placing on the chicken.

Preheat oven to 350 °  F

What you need: for each person - 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast; 1 slice of ham; 1 slice of real Swiss cheese (Gruyere or Emmental); 2 tbs flour; salt and pepper; ¼ tsp each onion powder, and garlic powder;  ¼ cup panko crumbs; ½ tsp fresh thyme leaves or ¼ tsp dried thyme leaves. Also 1 egg and 2 tbs milk per 2 servings; 1 tbs melted butter or margarine or  oil for cooking.

What you do: use a mallet to pound each chicken breast flat. Mix salt, pepper, onion and garlic powders together. Sprinkle on both side of the chicken pieces. If desired, trim ham and cheese slices to size of chicken breast.  Lay ham and cheese slices on top of the chicken and roll up the breasts like making rouladen. Fasten closed with a tooth pick. Place rolls into flour to coat lightly. Whisk egg and milk together in a shallow dish. Place crumbs in a large ziplock bag. Roll the chicken into the egg mixture then shake in the crumbs. Pour melted butter, oil, or margarine into your baking pan. Swirl to coat the bottom evenly. Place chicken rolls into the pan, and sprinkle on thyme leaves. Place into the oven, and bake for 25 minutes, or until juices are clear.
(To cook in the BBQ I will use a sturdy metal baking dish, and place it in the BBQ, which has been set to medium heat. Bake as for in the oven.)
{To cook in a frying pan, on high heat,  melt the butter or margarine, and add the chicken rolls to the pan. Brown on all sides. Reduce heat to medium low. Cover pan halfway, and let the chicken simmer for 20 minutes, turning twice. Mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl. Remove chicken rolls, and set aside to keep warm. Add sauce mixture to the pan, increase heat, and cook until sauce is thickened. Replace the chicken rolls, and use a spoon or ladle to cover rolls with sauce.}

Serve with any side dish - such as rice, noodles, mashed or baked potatoes, and steamed vegetables or salad. Pour sauce over chicken before serving.

*Wine sauce

What you need: ½ c chicken stock; ½ c skim milk; 1 tbs butter or margarine; 2 tbs flour; 1 cup white wine;  salt and white pepper to taste, Aromat powder or onion and garlic powder to taste. Wine, skim milk, or white grape juice to adjust the sauce.

What you do: In a 4 cup glass bowl or measuring cup, melt the butter or margarine in the microwave for 20 seconds. Add the flour and whisk together. Add chicken stock and milk, stir well, making sure to incorporate all the flour mixture. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Add the wine, salt and pepper, Aromat or onion and garlic, cook  about 4 minutes on medium power, or until until sauce is thickened. If sauce is too thick, add milk or grape juice to achieve the right consistency for your sauce. It should be thick like whipping cream, but not too thick to pour easily. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.  Serve  over the chicken, or on almost any vegetable or pasta dish.  

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Fabulous Seafood Fondue

In an earlier post I promised to do the recipes for sauces etc, for seafood fondue. As mentioned in the post on meat fondue, fish is much more delicate, and so some things are different than with a meat fondue. Also, fondue forks are kind of useless with fish, as it falls apart too easily, so everything gets 'lost' in the pot. You need small strainers, or wire dippers, so you can lower into and raise out of the broth easily.  For sauces, I always have peanut sauce - also known as sate sauce, from the Indonesian recipes. It is Wil's favourite. There is also a homemade garlic mayonnaise, a lemon sauce which is indescribably delicious, dill sauce, onion sauce, and sometimes a tomato based spicy sauce. Sauce recipes will follow the basic fondue. I often make the sauces a day or two before the fondue. They benefit from some time to meld the flavours.  I would suggest you limit the people to about 8. With any more than that, the table is too busy, and you won't have a chance to really talk to everyone. (One time we had a large gathering for a fondue, and ended up splitting into 2 tables, with parents at one, and teenagers at the other. That worked very well for that group.) It is very important to ensure that fish is kept cold before cooking, and that all seafood is cooked once it is placed on the table. Do not put raw fish or shellfish on eating plates. Do NOT put left over fish or shell fish back into the fridge raw. After everyone has eaten all they can, pour the unused fish and shellfish into the large stock pot and add enough broth to cover. Makes a great base for Bouillabaisse!

What you need: 6 litres of a light chicken stock or fish stock; per person - 100 gr  of each of the following fish - salmon, cod, halibut, red snapper; 8 or 10 large prawns (31- 40 per pound), 8 - 10 medium large scallops; ½ pound of fresh mussels, or 1 package of frozen raw clams, thawed; crab or lobster meat if you can afford them, (usually we don't); 2 baby bok choy; 1 bunch of  very slender asparagus ( then they will not be woody); baby carrots cut into matchsticks; 2 ribs of celery cut into wedges about ½ inch thick; 2 dozen small mushrooms; 1 small package of bean sprouts; any other vegetable you like, cut into pieces that will cook quickly if desired, or that can be eaten raw. 3 or more different sauces for dipping, 2 loaves of french baguettes, sliced.

What you do:Prepare the stock- use either whole fish and add water, or purchased clam broth, or low sodium chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to minimum, and simmer for 3 or 4 hours.  Cut all the fish into 1 or 1½ inch cubes, and arrange them on platters or in small dishes that can be passed around the table. place scallops, clams or mussels, and prawns each into separate dishes, to avoid cross contamination of raw shellfish. Place all the prepared fish and shellfish in the fridge until time for guests to be seated. Prepare all the vegetables, by washing and cutting into serving size pieces, and arrange on a platter ( or 2) which can be placed on the table so every one can reach. A lazy Susan works very well for this. Of course, in my house, mushrooms get their own dish, and there is always one cooking pot which is mushroom free.
Place all the sauces in small dishes, and place around the table so they can easily be reached by your guests. Set the table with dinner plates, small plates or saucers, ordinary forks and knives, and a cooking strainer, and napkins, for each guest. (The saucer or small plate is for the strainer when it is not in the pot.) Also good to have a 'discard' dish, or 2, - to put bones, shrimp or prawn shells, and mussel shells on so they are off personal plates.
As with the meat fondue, each person chooses the things they want to cook, and cooks their own in the chosen pot. Remind everyone to keep raw and cooked seafood on different plates.
Garlic mayonnaise: 
What you need: 1 egg;  2 tsp crushed garlic - about 4 cloves; 1 cup of canola oil; 2 tbs lemon juice; salt and pepper to taste; and ¼ tsp of saffron. There is a spice available at some Chinese markets, called 'Poor man's Saffron'. It is the dried stamens of the safflower plant, and is MUCH cheaper than real saffron, but . tastes nice, and adds a lovely colour to the mayonnaise.
What you do:  In a blender, process the egg, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and saffron. Add oil in a slow stream and allow to emulsify. Taste, and adjust seasonings as desired. Store in a jar or plastic container in the fridge. Keeps like any bought mayonnaise, but tastes much nicer. 
Lemon sauce:
What you need: ¼ cup peanut  or canola oil; 3-4 cloves of garlic; 3-4 shallots; 6 Tbs of lemon juice;  salt and pepper to taste; 1 tsp sambal oelek.
What you do: mince the shallots and garlic cloves, and place in a small saucepan with the oil. Heat on medium until onion and garlic are transparent. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper, and sambal oelek. Stir well. Store in a jar in the fridge. Keeps for 3 - 4 months. Shake well before each  use.
For the Onion sauce, and Dill sauce: I cheat and use  mixes from Epicure. Add several spoons of mix to 1 cup of a sauce base of  ½ mayonnaise and ½ plain yogurt. Store each sauce in a small container in the fridge.
Tomato spicy sauce: Almost based on a classic coctail sauce, this is made in a similar way.
What you need: ½ cup crushed tomatoes, 2 tsp onion powder, and 2 tsp garlic powder; salt and pepper to taste; 3 -4 Tbs water; 1- 2 tsp sambal oelek.  
What you do:  In a small saucepan, warm the tomatoes and whisk in seasonings. Add water in small amounts to make a nice consistancy, not quite runny, but not as thick as ketchup. Add sambal oelek and stir well. Chill before serving. Store in the fridge up to 2 months.
I hope you and your guests enjoy your fondue.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Baked Oatmeal from Steel Cut Oats

Twice a month I have the privilege of cooking breakfast for the students at one of the high schools in my home town. I always go in the day before and ask the kids, "What do you want for breakfast tomorrow?" Yesterday, one of the boys replied with something I had never heard of - baked oatmeal. I said I had never heard of it, and did he have a recipe. He said what was in his, but didn't have amounts. I told him I would 'Google' it. So I went home and search the Internet. WOW! Was I surprised to see there lots of recipes on line for baked oatmeal. On one site - which just happens to be a blog similar to mine, there was a comment asking if the writer had a version for using steel cut oats instead of rolled oats. Since I use steel cut oats myself, I was interested in her reply. The writer said that it would need a lot of 'tweaking' because steel cut oats take a lot longer to cook, and need more liquid. I decided to try to make baked oatmeal with steel cut oats, and it was a big hit! Here is my version.

What you need:  2 cups of steel cut oats; 2 large eggs; 3 cups (2%) milk; 2 tsp vanilla; a pinch of salt; 1 tsp baking powder; 1½ cups of dried blueberries.

What you do. Preheat your oven to 325°  F

In a large bowl, use a whisk to beat the eggs. Add milk and whisk together. Add vanilla, salt and baking powder, and whisk again. Add the steel cut oats, and blueberries, and stir. Grease a 9 x 11 baking dish. Pour in the mixture, spreading oats out carefully with a spatula. cover tightly with foil, and bake for 1:40  to 2 hours. Cut into squares. Place each square in a bowl and pour milk over to serve. Steel cut oats have a wonderful nutty flavour and a texture quite different from rolled oats.  Enjoy.

If you have never used steel cut oats, you can make baked oatmeal using rolled oats instead -( do not use instant oatmeal).You will need to reduce the milk to 2 cups. Bake at 375 ° F for 45 - 50 minutes.

Today, since I only had skim milk, I substituted some of the milk for whipping cream, about 3/4 of a cup, to add a little richness.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Easy Taco Salad -- Gluten free option

Easy Taco Salad

My family has always loved a supper we called burritos, although soft taco would have been a more accurate name. We would have tortillas with a spiced blend of ground beef topped with salsa, tomatoes, lettuce and cheese. I discovered that many restaurants serve a similar dish in a tortilla bowl and call it taco salad.  Since I do not want the deep fried tortilla bowl, I have substituted a plain whole wheat tortilla, although most of the family prefer white ones. I also really enjoy the multigrain tortillas.

Now that I have an empty nest, and Wil is working out of town, I am often cooking for 1 person -instead of 6, and need to shrink my recipes accordingly. This is a very quick and easy to make dinner for one, and you can multiply by the number of servings you wish to make. This is easy to convert to a gluten free dinner, as when I bought my tortillas today, I saw packages of gluten free tortillas on the shelf. Corn is gluten free, of course, but some corn tortillas have wheat flour in them as well.

What you need:  180 gr lean ground beef; 1/4 of a red pepper, sliced thinly; 2 Tbs of taco or Sloppy Joe seasoning mix - (or a gluten free blend of spices*); 1/4 cup water; 2 or 3 leaves of lettuce, shredded; 1 oz of cheddar cheese, shredded; 1/4 cup of chopped tomato; 1/2 an avocado, in thin slices; 1 tortilla, 10 inch size. 1/4 cup of salsa is optional.

What you do:  In a small skillet or saucepan, brown the ground beef and add the spices or seasoning mix. Add water and pepper strips. allow to simmer about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the salad blend of lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, and avocado. Place the tortilla on a large plate. Add meat mixture then top with salad mix. Toss lightly. Serve at once. Goes very well with a crisp white wine sangria. You can add any other kind of veggie you like to your salad. I do not use any dressing, as the meat has plenty of juice to moisten the salad ingredients.


Saturday, 9 March 2013

Simple Steak

We are a family of carnivores! Everyone in my family loves a tender, juicy steak, with or without toppings such as mushrooms, seafood, onions, etc.
The best steaks are very simple. You MUST start with top quality beef or bison, and a very good cut of meat, and then cook it with a little salt and pepper to your prefered doneness. Most of our family like steaks rare or blue. Some people think we are barbarians, but hey - we like what we like with no excuses. When Luc was in NB with the army he had some friends over for a BBQ. When they saw his steaks they told him "That is barbaric." Luc replied, "NO it isn't. Barbaric is standing in a field, and as the cow runs by cut a chunk off and eat it still warm!" Of course we would never do such a thing, but we definately like our steaks on the rare side. Wil even likes 'Steak Tartare', which I don't want to eat. If you are not familiar with the term 'tartare' it means RAW!

Tops choices for making good steaks are strip loin - aka New York, prime rib, T-bone, or sirloin. I do buy the more expensive cut occasionally, especially if they are on sale for a good price, but usually I cook top sirloin steaks. I sometimes have the butcher cut them for me, as many times the steaks in the meat counter are too thin. If a steak is less than an inch thick, it cooks too quickly, and get tough. These cuts can be grilled, broiled, or pan fried and each way of cooking has it's own pros and cons. Of course, our favourite all time steak is the one cooked over a bed of real coals - gas grills are okay, but old fashioned coals provide a flavour all their own.

What you need: 200 - 400 gr steak per person; freshly ground black pepper, salt. An option to regular salt and pepper is a commercial mix like 'Montreal Steak Spice'.

What you do:
If cooking on a BBQ or gas grill, brush grill with a small amount of oil, or spray the grill with non-stick spray before heating. Get BBQ or grill preheated. If using your broiler, preheat the broiler for about 8 minutes.
If cooking in a frying pan, use a stainless steel, aluminum, or cast iron pan, as non-stick pans can not be heated hot enough for searing steak. Heat a small amount of oil or margarine until nearly at smoking point - do not use olive oil as it will burn before getting to the heat needed.

  Sprinkle steak with pepper and a light sprinkle of salt. Place on the heated grill or in the pan. Cook a few minutes and turn over. Cook a few minutes more, or until done to your liking. This is the most tricky part. Wil always says " You can ask for what ever you like, but you get what you get." 

Cooking Times:
For blue rare  - about 1-2 minutes per side. (Actually Ben says, " put in on count to 3 turn it over count to 3 and take it off.)
For rare - about 4 mintes per side.
For medium rare - 5-7 minutes per side.
For more cooked, I don't know the times, as we never have anyone who wants medium to well done steaks.

Such classics as pan fried onions or mushrooms are easy to do. Just wash, slice and fry in butter until done. Add to cooked steak. As an option for this, check out the recipe for Wil's Special Mushrooms on an earlier post.

Steak Oscar: cook chopped shrimp, scallops, and/or crab meat in a little butter, then add some onion, garlic, and chopped parsley. Place a generous Tbs on each cooked steak.

Chopped cooked bacon is also a great topping for steaks.

Many things go well with steaks, baked potatoes are usually served with them at restaurants, but you can also serve noodles, or pasta (lasagna and spaghetti come to mind), or rice dishes. Any vegetable or salad dish also goes well with steak. Then again, Ben like to have with his steak - more steak. He would be happy to eat only meat - but that is not the healthiest choice.

Good luck.  Have fun and enjoy.

Honey Mustard Salmon

This is one of Matthew's favourite supper dishes. I got the original recipe from a BC government publication on fish. As usual, I have changed the recipe over the years, and added a few extra things to it.

What you need: 1/4 cup butter or margarine; 1 pound of salmon fillets or steaks; 2 Tbs honey, 1 Tbs dijon mustard; salt and pepper to taste; 1 Tbs fresh minced onion; 1 large clove fresh minced garlic, 1/4 tsp cardamom; 1 tsp dried tarragon flakes.
Preheat the oven to 450*F
What you do: melt the butter and place into the baking dish. In a small bowl mix honey and mustard. Add all the seasonings, and stir well. Place all the fish into the baking dish and spread the seasoning mix evenly over all the pieces. Cover the dish with foil.
 Bake for 10 - 20 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through. Make sure to NOT overcook.

Goes great with a rice or noodle side,  or wild and white rice blend, and steamed vegetable.

Coating mix for fish, pork, or chicken ( Gluten free version)

Everyone is familiar with packaged coating mixes for making  'oven fried' chicken, or breaded fish or pork chops. I have always prefered to make my own versions, which are lower in salt, and have no preservatives, (or less preservatives). For many years I have made bread crumbs from the unwanted ends of loaves of bread. I allow them to dry out on the counter, then crush them in the blender, and store in an airtight container. I do occasionally buy bread crumbs, but they are made from white bread, and I prefer to buy whole wheat bread, so I like to make my own bread crumbs. Another really delicious wayto make crumbs is to grind up dried out crescent rolls. That buttery flavour is delicious is a coating mix.

**To make gluten free coatings, there are two substitutions for the bread crumbs, and both are easily available. Corn flakes and some brands of rice cereal are gluten free, and can easily be turned into crumbs to make delicious and crunchy coatings. some versions of Cheerios brand cereals are also gluten free. I learned recently, (spring 2017), that Kellogs brand Rice Krispies are not GF, as they add a barley malt to colour the rice. Please use caution when choosing your crumb ingredients.

To make a breading mix, I combine a cup of crumbs with a variety of spices. The kind of spices changes depending on what you will use the coating for. Each time it is unique, as I don't measure anything.

Chicken - I use poultry seasoning, or a mixture of thyme and sage to add to the basic seasonings. Other options are oregano, chervil, or marjoram.

Fish - I use a dried lemon zest with dill or taragon, added to the basic seasonings.

Pork - I use sage most often, but sometimes ground rosemary or oregano added to the basic seasonings.

There is no end to the variety of seasonings you can try. If you like heat in your food - as in spicy - add some crushed red peppers to the dry mix or some hot sauce to your liquid. Have fun trying new tastes. Food should be more than just a means to survive, it should be something you enjoy eating.

What you need:  1 cup of crumbs; [1 Tbs onion powder; 1 Tbs garlic powder; 2 tsp parsley; 1 tsp ground black pepper; 1/2 tsp - 1 tsp salt;]* 1 Tbs of combined spices. A liquid - ( can be whisked egg with milk, juice, broth, or even plain water).
*the basic seasonings.
What you do: Prepare your dry ingredients by placing into a large zip type bag. Shake well to mix. Place the liquid into a shallow dish. Dip your prepared pieces into the liquid you have chosen, and
shake slightly, then place into the zip bag and shake to coat evenly. Remove and place onto a plate, until all the pieces are coated. Cook in the oven or frying pan as usual.
If baking pieces. I place 1/4 cup of butter or margarine in the baking dish, and place into the oven for a few minutes to melt. Then I add the coated pieces, and baste with the melted fat before baking. Turn the pieces over half way through the cooking time, and baste again.


Monday, 4 March 2013

Ben's Favourite Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Any time I ask Ben what he wants me to make for dinner, he will say "MEAT", and then add, "and garlic mashed potatoes."

It might seem silly to put this recipe on the blog because everyone knows how to make mashed potatoes, right?? Wrong. Some people find potatoes a challenge, and prefer to buy theirs fried at MacDonalds. (YUK!!) I do like french fries, and make them too, but mashed potatoes are just such a comfort food! Also a good food for babies, without the seasonings, of course. It is important to use a good firm fleshed potato such as red, or Yukon Gold. Russet potatoes are best for baking or frying, not for mashing.

What you need: 1-2 potatoes for each person; a pot of water, salt; milk; butter, and fresh minced garlic or garlic powder; salt and pepper to taste.

What you do:  Peel and chop potatoes then place in pot of water. Sprinkle with about 1/4 tsp of salt per person. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and let simmer for 18 to 20 minutes, or until potatoes are just tender. Test potatoes by poking with a fork. Drain water from the pot, and mash the potatoes. Add butter and milk, then whisk together until smooth and creamy. Add garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with any meat or fish and steamed or raw veggies. Can be served with gravy, or butter sauce.


Classic Liver and Onions - with gluten free version

Here is the liver recipe that you can find in most family style restaurants, and the one you mother probably made when you were a kid. This is the version served most often at our house. Once again, baby beef liver is best, and cooking until just done is critical.

What you need: 150 - 200 gr liver per person; 3 - 4 slices bacon per person; 1 large onion sliced into rings; 1/2 cup flour; 1 tsp onion powder; 1 tsp garlic powder; salt and pepper to taste; 1 package of brown gravy mix, or 2 cups of left over roast gravy.

What you do: Preheat oven to 250*F.  In a large skillet, cook bacon until done to your taste. Meanwhile prepare the gravy mix as directed. Place bacon slices in an oven proof dish and set into the oven to keep warm. Cook onion slices in bacon fat, until they begin to brown. Place in oven to keep warm. Clean liver pieces and remove any tough membranes. Mix flour and seasonings in a flat plate. Dredge the liver pieces, and quickly fry on each side in the bacon fat. As each piece is cooked, place it into the oven to keep warm. When  all the liver is cooked, pour off any extra bacon grease, then add the gravy to the skillet and stir to pick up any pan drippings. Serve in a gravy boat with the liver, bacon, and onions. This goes great with mashed potatoes and veggies.

To make gluten free, just substitute the flour and gravy with gluten free ones.

As always, enjoy.

Foie Genevoise - with a gluten free variation

Foie Genevoise is also known as Geneva Style Liver - now don't give me that look. Many people HATE liver, and many others love it, but this is a recipe which will make you, if not love it, at least be able to tolerate it.
Liver is a very inexpensive form of protein, with lots of iron, and many other good nutrients. When we were kids, my dad would cook liver, and we called it leather. The secret to a great liver dish is to use baby beef liver, and cook it quickly and - like fish- just until done. When over cooked, liver becomes tough, just like leather.

In our house, 3 out of 5 like liver, and would eat it several times a month, while the others would prefer to never see liver again. Liver can have a very strong flavour. That is why baby beef liver is the best. If you like, you can soak liver overnight in a cup of milk, which will remove some of the bitter flavour. I learned to make this when I was living in Geneva. The whipping cream really makes the difference.

What you need: 150 - 200 gr liver per person; 1/2 cup of flour; salt and pepper to taste; 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder; 2 Tbs butter; 1 small container - 250 ml- whipping cream.

Whay you do: Pre-heat oven to about 250* F.  Cut liver into small strips, and remove any tough membranes. In a flat plate, stir flour and seasonings. Dredge the liver pieces in the flour mixture. Using a reular skillet - (not a non-stick kind) - heat the butter until just beginning to brown over medium high heat. Sear liver pieces quickly on each side, and remove to an oven proof dish. Place in oven to keep warm. Repeat as needed until all the liver pieces are cooked. Pour the cream into the skillet, and stir to pick up any pan drippings, then whisk in as much of the flour mixture as needed to make a smooth sauce. Serve immediately over the liver pieces.

This is great served over rice or noodles, with a salad or steamed veggies on the side. The only caution, is that those things need to be ready at the same time the liver is done, as letting the liver sit for long can make it over cooked and toughen up. It really is delicious.

If you are on a gluten free diet, use flour which is gluten free, and make the same way.

As always - enjoy.

Taste of Summer (in the winter) Salad - Gluten free

Taste of Summer Salad

Very easy to make and also very easy to change or tweak each time you make it, I had this last night for dinner, and thought it tasted like a bit of summer in mid winter - hence the name.

What you need: 1cup of mixed baby spring greens; 1 cup of baby spinach leaves; 1/2 cup of dried blueberries, (or fresh blueberries); 1/4 cup of fried onion pieces, (available in packages near the fresh salad stuff at your grocery store); 1/4 cup slivered almonds. dressings of your choice.

What you do:  In a large salad bowl toss the greens, onion, fruit and nuts. Allow each person to add dressing of their choice on their plate. (The biggest advantage to this, is that left over salad can be put into the frige to enjoy the next day).

 - use any kind of fruit or berries - they can be fresh, frozen and thawed, dried, or canned - peaches, etc.
- use any kind of nuts that you like, or top with one of the salad topper mixes which are available in the grocery store.
- add or remove any kind of lettuce or greens that you want.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Ertwen -Green pea- soup - (Gluten free)

Wil's family is from Holland, and they make a Dutch green pea soup, while I am French Canadian, and make yellow pea soup - in fact I still LOVE the canned 'Habitant Pea Soup' that my dad used to buy.  Here is a variation of Wil's soup, Ertwen is the Dutch name.

What you need: about 3 litres of water; a leftover ham bone*, with lots of meat on it, and all the pan drippings from the ham; 1 medium onion; 2 carrots; 1 rib of celery; 3 bags of dried split green peas; about a kg of Farmers sausage - or any cooked sausage you like; salt and pepper to taste; 1 tbs garlic powder, 1 tsp celery seed; 1/2 tsp ground marjoram; and 1-2 tbs dried chervil  or parsley leaves.
* If you use a ham which has been glazed with a sugar mix, your soup will have a sweet/salty taste. I usually use a ham baked without sweet glaze - as Wil is not fond of sweet sauces on meat. It can have cloves or garlic mustard sauce.

What you do: Put the ham bone, along with any pan drippings from the baked ham, into a large soup kettle and cover with water, bring to a boil and let simmer for an hour or so. Remove the bone, and add the peas to the water. Let cook 2 - 3 hours. Meanwhile cut all the meat - usually about 500 gr- from the bone and chop into small pieces. Add to the kettle. Peel and finely chop the onion. Peel and shred the carrots. Finely slice, or dice, the celery stalk. Add all the veggies with all the seasonings to the soup, and keep simmering until the peas are completely dissolved. Takes at least 8 hours or can be left on lowest heat overnight. Chop the sausage and add to the soup. Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Let simmer for one more hour before serving.

Serve hot with fresh baked biscuits or thick slices of fresh bread. Enjoy.

This usually makes a really thick soup, which is solid when cooled. If you like your soup more runny, just use 2 bags of dried peas.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Dad's Cornbread (with a gluten free option)

Since I just made some cornbread, and it brings back memories of my childhood, I thought I would add this one to the blog. It is not an original recipe of mine, as my Dad used to bake this for breakast. It wan't until I was an adult that he told me he would bake cornbread for breakfast when he got up in the morning and realized that we were out of bread!! We kids used to think it was a special treat. I usually double this recipe.

What you need: 1 cup cornmeal; 3/4 cup flour, ( I use 1/2 c whole wheat and 1/4 c all purpose, but you can use all of either); 2 tbs sugar; 4 tsp baking powder; 1/2 tsp salt; 1 egg; 1 cup milk; and 2 tbs melted fat or oil. (If I use melted butter I omit the salt).

What you do:  pre-heat the oven to 425* F. grease a small baking pan, 8x8 or 5x9 inch. Use flour or cornmeal to coat the greased pan.  In a medium bowl mix all the dry ingredients. In a small bowl beat the egg, then add milk and liquid fat. Add all at once to the dry ingredients, then stir until well blended. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Add 5 minutes if recipe is doubled. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then cut into 2x3 inch pieces to serve.
How we ate it when I was a child - still do, too - Place on a small plate and cut in half across the width, open pieces and spread with butter then top with corn syrup.   Enjoy.

To make this gluten free, replace the flour with a gluten free baking flour. 

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Chicken Cacciatore

This is an updated version of this old favourite. This is actually the very first thing I ever made for Wil when we started dating.  I made a few changes to make it a little leaner, using boneless breast meat instead of legs, and using whole wheat pasta in place of regular. You can make it gluten free, by using a different thickener for the sauce, and gluten free pasta.

What you need: 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces; ; 1 can 796 gr of crushed tomatoes; 1/2 small onion, finely chopped; 3 cloves of garlic, minced;  1 cup of chopped sweet peppers, any colour, or combination you like;1 tbs Italian seasoning; 1/2 cup water; 1 tbs flour; 1 tsp to 1 tbs of sambal oelek, or other spice to add some heat; salt and pepper;1 375 gr box of whole wheat spaghetti; 2 tsp oil for cooking.

What you do: heat oil in a skillet, on medium high heat, and add chicken. Cook several minutes to brown the chicken on all sides. Add onion, garlic and peppers, and allow to cook a few minutes before adding tomatoes.  Add seasonings. Whisk the water and flour together, and stir into the sauce. Lower the heat to medium low and allow sauce to simmer for 40 minutes to an hour. Stir every 5 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Serve sauce over pasta with grated Parmesan cheese.

A baked version is easy to do for something different. After draining the pasta, add all the sauce and stir to mix well. Place into a casserole dish and top with grated mozzarella cheese, then bake 20 minutes in a 350 *F oven.

Can be served with a green or Ceasar salad, and garlic bread if desired.

This serves 4-6 people, unless Luc is there, then serves 3.

As always - enjoy.