Friday, September 4, 2009

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I've told you before about my husband's Buy Sphynx Kittens and her canning skills when I posted her Pickled Beets recipe but if there are two things that Ome is most famous for it's her sauerkraut and dill pickles. Both are the best I have ever had. I'll have to wait on trying to make sauerkraut until the next time I see her because I believe it's quite involved and I would rather have her expert eye watching over me while I make it. But the dill pickles, I couldn't wait to give those a try.

The local farms around here are all selling large quantities of pickling cucumbers right now so if you don't grow your own you will likely have to visit a local farm or Farmer's Market. Support your local farmers! (Off soapbox.) You'll need the cucumbers to be fresh. Like uber fresh. As my atmos rawfrom 1974 (which has a whole chapter on pickles says,) "24 hours from vine to brine." Ome used to pick hers from her garden, of course, but I planted mine late this year, of course, so I probably won't have my pickling cukes for another month or so. Anyway, I bought 7 lbs from a local farm and got down to it.

I love, love, love canning. It's my new favorite hobby and my cellar is already getting nicely stocked up. From 7 lbs of cucumbers that cost me $6.99, I got 8 jars of dill pickles. Canning is such a great cost effective way to preserve food that is in season. It is so rewarding and allows you to be a little more self sufficient. In times like these, that is a very good feeling.

7 pounds pickling cucumbers, 3 to 4 inches long
10 cups water
4 cups white vinegar (with an acidity of 5%)
2/3 cup pickling salt
16 cloves garlic, roughly chopped in large chunks
16 sprigs (stem and head) fresh dill weed

Sterilize 8 1 quart jars by either running them through the hot cycle of a dishwasher or placing clean jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. Wash the lids and rings and keep them in hot water until you need them. Thoroughly wash your cucumbers and have them standing by. Bring to a boil the water, vinegar and pickling salt and boil for 1 minute. Place equal amounts of chopped garlic in the bottom of each jar. Place 1 sprig of dill in each jar. Pack the jars equally with the cucumbers. Pour the hot brine over the cucumbers. Place the lids on and process the jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars and allow to cool completely. Store the pickles in a cool, dark place. They will be ready to eat in 4-6 weeks. Once opened, store the pickles in the refrigerator.

Friday, August 28, 2009

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This past week has been a real treat around here. Have you ever had food poisoning? No? Consider yourself very, very lucky. Now let me point out right away that it was not from anything I made. Thankfully! If it was, I would probably be compelled to throw in the towel where cooking is concerned because what we just went through was awful. Movie theater popcorn was the official culprit. Gross.

So, I certainly won't go into the details but I will tell you that I couldn't eat for three days and while I'm feeling much better today and up for a meal, I figured it was best to ease into the whole food thing. My body was seriously craving nourishment and even though it's 25 degrees outside, I figured soup was my best option.

I've heard that if you boil brown rice in water and drink the actual water that it helps soothe a sensitive stomach but sorry, that ain't happening so my second idea was a chicken, brown rice and vegetable soup. Sounded safe enough. It was exactly what I needed and it was really very tasty. I'll definitely be keeping this recipe in the back of my mind in any event that I don't feel well. But please, no more food poisoning, EVER again. And with that, all I can say is, stay away from the movie theater popcorn kids. It's just not worth it.

1/2 lb chicken breast, diced
1 cup brown rice, rinsed with cold water
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I used vegetable stock)
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

In a stock pot, saute onions, carrots and celery in a little oil over low-medium heat for about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another 10 minutes. Add the stock and water and bring to a boil. Add the rice to the boiling mixture and boil the rice until tender, about 20 minutes. When the rice is tender, add the chicken, thyme, sage, turmeric and bay leaf and bring the soup to another boil. At this point you may have to add a little more water to thin the soup out to your desired consistency. Lower the heat to a simmer, partially cover and simmer the soup for 20 minutes to bring the flavors together.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Daring Cooks August Challenge: Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish and Artichokes

Okay, okay so I'm a week late. Better late than never right? I must stress that I wasn't late cooking the challenge though, just late in actually posting the results. As usual, I waited until the very last minute to bust out the recipe but bust it out I did. It's an Aries thing that pesky procrastination. Or perhaps it's a human thing, I dunno. I've been meaning to get this up for days now but house guests and fun and life in general got in the way. It happens.

Anyway, the challenge for Daring Cooks this month was a Spanish dish that consisted of Rice with Mushrooms, Artichokes and Cuttlefish and it was hosted by Olga of Olga's Recipes. It couldn't have come at a better time because Paella was on my list of things to make and this is a Paella type dish. This recipe is absolutely delicious. My favorite part was the sauce called "Sofregit." It is essentially olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, bell peppers and onions. The Sofregit adds such freshness to the dish, perfect for Summer. In lieu of finding Cuttlefish (which I couldn't) I went with Olga's other suggestions which were clams, mussels and shrimp. The recipe also calls for a garlic aioli which is to be served on top of the rice. I personally didn't care for it too much but my Husband and Mother-In-Law really liked it so I would encourage you to try it. Overall, Olga's recipe was exactly what I was looking for; simple, fresh and just plain good. So while this challenge couldn't have come at a better time. Here's hoping next Month I will actually be on time.

Click here for Olga's original recipe with step-by-step instructions. This is a traditional Spanish recipe so Olga has some good authentic tips:

My recipe is exactly the same as Olga's except for the following changes:
-Instead of Cuttlefish, I added 1/2 lb shrimp (cleaned, deveined and shelled,) 1/2 lb mussels and 1/2 lb clams. The shellfish was added to the pan near the end of the cooking time, covered with a lid and steamed for about 10 minutes or until the mussel and clam shells open. Remember to discard any mussels or clams if the shells didn't open after you have cooked them.
-Also, I squeezed half a lemon over the final dish and sprinkled it with 1/4 cup chopped cilantro.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Blueberry Pancakes

We have a fabulous full house this week. My Mother-in-Law, Sister-in-law and her family are visiting and they brought their two little cutie pies, ages six and three. So you know what happens when you're six, adorable and want pancakes for breakfast? Well, you get pancakes for breakfast, of course (being adorable wins out every time, see below. I mean Hello!) Surprisingly I had never made pancakes from scratch. I know, I thought it was weird too. So when I began my search for a good recipe (which you can imagine there are like, a million) I figured the pancake recipe that has 2500+ good reviews on All Recipes was probably a sure bet. But the best review came from "cutie pie little six," who said, "These pancakes are very, very much good!" Can't get much better than that.

Recipe slightly adapted from All Recipes:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups milk
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted but slightly cooled
Oil for frying, such as grapeseed, canola or other vegetable oil

Sift together the flour and baking powder. Mix in the sugar and salt. Whisk in the milk, egg, vanilla extract and butter. Whisk the mixture until there are no more lumps. Gently stir in the blueberries. Allow the batter to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Lightly grease a skillet over medium heat. I liked the results from using a cast iron skillet but it's not necessary. Use a ladle and pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into the hot pan. The pancake is ready to flip when the top has bubbles and the bottom is golden brown. Flip the pancake and cook another 3-4 minutes or until the bottom is golden brown. You can keep the pancakes warm in a 250 degree oven until you are ready to serve them but not for longer than about 20 minutes.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Last week my tomato plants were drowning in tomatoes. Not that I'm complaining at all, they are gorgeous and delicious. However, we had a major heat wave last week. I mean, the hottest days in Vancouver history. IT WAS BRUTAL. So if you can imagine, I have 12 cherry tomato plants that all decided to ripen at the same time and each had about 30-40 ripe tomatoes. Well, considering I couldn't even move, there was no way I was going outside to pick about 400 tomatoes in 38 degree C heat. For all of my non Canadian peeps, that's 100 F, with 60% humidity. BRUTAL. As a result, I think some of those poor little tomatoes cooked on the vine because when I did manage to pick them, they were a little mushy. So I knew I wanted to cook with them and I've been meaning to try making my own BBQ sauce, done and done.

I started the sauce with the Homemade Ketchup recipe from White on Rice Couple. The ketchup is fantastic and It was a perfect base to begin with but you could certainly use regular ketchup. From there I just messed around and experimented adding different spices and flavors like anchovies. Yes anchovies! The sauce turned out great. Better than any bottled BBQ sauce we've had. Since it was my first attempt, I only made a small batch but next time I'll make a large batch and can it. Of course, I'll have to wait until this heat kindly takes a hike.

1 cup ketchup (see the notes below if you are using regular ketchup)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons molasses
1/4 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more to taste

*NOTE: If you are using regular ketchup add to the ingredients, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, pinch of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon onion powder and an extra teaspoon garlic powder.

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized saucepan. Bring the mixture to a high simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until the flavors have come together and to your desired consistency. If the sauce becomes too thick for you, just add some water. Check for seasonings to your personal taste adding more vinegar if you prefer more tang or more brown sugar for a sweeter sauce. You may also add more cayenne pepper if you prefer the sauce a little more spicy.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Chinese Chicken Salad

I know I recently confessed that I really don't like salad but in the case of this Chinese Chicken Salad from Simply Recipes, I can make an exception. In fact, I love this salad. The tang of the rice vinegar and the subtle heat of the chili flakes and ginger makes for a delicious dressing. And I pretty much go crazy for anything cilantro related so it had me there. This salad is so simple to make and is perfect for lunch or double the recipe for a light dinner. With temperatures around here hovering at a good 30 degrees, the last thing I want to do is spend too much time in the kitchen.

Recipe from Simply Recipes:

1/2 head napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups leftover cooked chicken
1/2 red pepper, julienned
3-4 scallions, sliced
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

2 tablespoons tamari or 3 tablespoons regular soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar (or add 1 teaspoon of sugar to unseasoned rice vinegar)
1 teaspoon ginger, finely grated
1 clove garlic, finely grated or minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. Make the dressing by mixing the rice vinegar, ginger and garlic together and allowing the mixture to sit for 15 minutes. Whisk the remaining dressing ingredients into the rice vinegar mixture. Toss the dressing with the salad ingredients and mix well.

Serves 4.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Daring Cooks July Challenge: Cod Poached in Butter with Powdered Flavors

When I first read this month's Daring Cooks challenge I was a little skeptical. It seemed way out of my element and not my style at all. I suppose that's why they call these things a challenge, hello! The challenge for July was based on Molecular Cuisine and was hosted by Sketchy from Sketchy's Kitchen. I have to take the time to thank Sketchy for taking me out of my comfort zone because it turns out I loved it!

The entire time I was drying and grinding the ingredients I kept saying, "I can't believe how fun this is!" While drying the herbs, fruit and vegetables takes some time, it is so worth it just for the aroma that filled my house alone. It also opened my eyes to the possibilities of drying food for preservation. Once I searched for dried cherries in about four different stores with no luck. Something tells me I'll be drying my own! When I dried the cilantro, it was nothing like the dreary green dried herbs I have in my pantry. It was bright, fragrant and so flavorful. Who knew? I had a great time with this challenge and it was a challenge for me. I have never eaten this way or even considered cooking in this style. So thank you Sketchy for pushing me to try something new. And now please excuse me while I go buy myself a food dehydrator.

Click here for Sketchy's original recipe and tutorial. The tutorial will show you how to poach the fish in a Beurre Monte (butter mixture.)

Here are my Recipes for the Powdered Flavors I used:
zest of 2 limes
1 bunch cilantro
1 mango, sliced as thinly as possible
1 red onion, sliced as thinly as possible
10 small red chilies, cut in half and seeds removed
1 small coconut, finely grated

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. All of the ingredients will have to be placed in a single layer. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper. Place all of the ingredients on the baking sheets. Place the baking sheets in the oven and refer to the following cooking times:

*Lime zest-20-30 minutes, or until the zest feels dried.
*Cilantro-30 minutes, flipping half way through. After 30 minutes, crumble the leaves and stems with your fingers as much as possible, return to the oven and bake another 20 minutes or until the cilantro is completely dried.
*Mango-bake for anywhere from 4-5 hours, flipping the mango a few times.
*Red Onion-bake for approximately 2-3 hours, flipping the onions a few times.
*Red Chilies- bake for 2-3 hours or until the chilies are completely dried.
*Coconut-bake for about 2 hours. Watch carefully that the coconut is drying and not browning.

The idea with the ingredients is that they become dried enough that we can turn them into powders. Drying the ingredients in a food dehydrator would be optimal but the oven works well too. When all of the ingredients are dehydrated, place them separately in a coffee grinder and grind them into a fine powder. To make the powder even smoother and to remove any lumps, run the powders through a fine meshed sieve.

You will likely have leftover powders. Trust me, you'll be happy about that.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Homemade Ranch Dressing

While participating in the Eating Down the Fridge challenge, I found myself with a large head of iceburg lettuce. I don't know about you but there is only one way I like to enjoy iceburg lettuce and that is dowsed in ranch dressing but I didn't have any ranch. Consider this my first dilemma of the challenge. That's where The Pioneer Woman came to my rescue.

The Pioneer Woman and I had different reasons for needing to make homemade ranch dressing but the problem was the same. I was going to eat that iceburg lettuce with ranch dressing somehow, somewhere without going to the store. I just didn't realize that it would be such an easy problem to fix. Essentially we are talking about some mayo, sour cream and whatever herbs you have on hand. This recipe had Eating Down the Fridge written all over it. So my little hiccup became a revelation. I will never buy ranch dressing again. Not when making it yourself tastes so good.

Recipe slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman:
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
buttermilk, to thin to desired consistency
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dill, finely chopped
Dash worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon vinegar

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Shrimp Alfredo (and a week of Eating Down the Fridge)

Well, yesterday was day 7 of the Eating Down the Fridge challenge. And although the fridge and freezer are looking cold and bare, and you can hear an echo in my pantry, I'm not stopping here. I have enjoyed this challenge immensely and will be exercising this theory on a regular basis. Something I realized while participating in Eating Down the Fridge is that while I am not a wasteful person to begin with, I can do better, much better.

The week went a little like this:

Day 1-Soba Noodles stir fried with red peppers, fried tofu, nappa cabbage and cilantro in a simple soy, garlic and ginger sauce
Day 2-Vietnamese Summer Rolls
Day 3-Beef Fajitas
Day 4-Coconut Shrimp
Day 5-Chinese Chicken Salad
Day 6-Lettuce Wraps

Yesterday's, Day 7, was Shrimp Alfredo. Not a bad week of eating if you ask me. I didn't miss shopping at all and it really forced me to get creative and be mindful of what I was eating. Overall Eating Down the Fridge was an excellent experience. I don't know what tonight's dinner will be but that's all part of the fun of it and I can really get used to this not running out to the store everyday thing.

P.S. Happy Canada Day to all my fellow Canadians!

Shrimp Alfredo Recipe:
12 shrimp, shelled, deveined, cleaned and cooked (grilled, steamed or sauteed)
1/2 lb spaghetti or linguini
1 cup cream
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste

Heat cream, garlic and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Lower the heat to a low simmer and stir in the parmesan cheese. Stir the sauce until the cheese has melted into the cream mixture. Once the cheese has melted, season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. At this point I like to let the sauce cool slightly and place it in a blender pulsing a few times to make the sauce a little smoother. The blender step is not necessary but I prefer the consistency. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Once the pasta is al dente, return the alfredo sauce and cooked shrimp to the saucepan. Reheat the sauce and shrimp, add the pasta and stir everything together. If the sauce is a little thick, simply thin it out with a little of the pasta water or cream. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Serves 2.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vietnamese Summer Roll

This week I'm participating in a fun challenge called Eating Down the Fridge. It's a week of preparing meals with things that you already have on hand, no grocery shopping. I am so down with this because I hate when things go to waste in the fridge and I hate grocery shopping. Well, I enjoy going to the Farmer's Market but I strongly dislike going to the grocery store so I was really looking forward to this. Yesterday was my first day and I stir fried some soba noodles with fried tofu, napa cabbage, cilantro and red peppers. It was good, simple and healthy. Can't go wrong with that. Today I made my favorite Vietnamese Summer Rolls. They are my favorite way to enjoy salad because I have a confession. I don't really like salad.

There I said it, I don't. I make myself eat it on a regular basis but trust me, it's not on my list of things I would eat if I didn't have to. Oh sure, there's the occasional time I actually enjoy salad but those times usually include some kind of creamy dressing or bacon or cheese (most likely all at the same time) but that kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it? Well, my not-so-secret anymore distaste for salad days are over thanks to the Vietnamese Summer Roll. Basically what we're talking about here is salad in a roll. Made many different ways, the Salad Roll is essentially julienned vegetables, fresh herbs, sometimes shrimp, chicken or pork, all wrapped in rice paper. These are so delicious that in the past few weeks I have eaten one for lunch and as a starter for my dinner almost every day. I am crazy for these rolls. They are so good that I feel guilty eating them, like I'm indulging in something I shouldn't be. That is my idea of a good salad.

So, day 2 on the Eating Down the Fridge challenge has been a success. I have no idea what tomorrow will hold. Stay tuned...

Here is where you get to be creative and basically use what you have on hand. You will need rice paper (found in any Asian market) and cooked rice noodles. In addition to those try any combination of vegetables such as: julienned carrots, peppers, mushrooms, bean sprouts, cucumber, radish, lettuce. And then any fresh herbs you have: cilantro, basil, etc. For a roll that is a little more hearty you can add cooked shrimp, chicken, pork or tofu.

Click here to see a short, simple video of how to make the actual rolls. It's difficult to explain. I was even confusing myself by trying. And no, the headless wonder in the video is not me :)

I like to serve these rolls with a dipping sauce from A Girl, a Market, a Meal:
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon chili garlic paste
1-2 tablespoons water

In a small bowl mash the peanut butter and hoisin sauce together with a fork. Mix in the rice vinegar and chili paste. Add a tablespoon or 2 of water to get your desired consistency.

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