Monday, January 31, 2011

Saving the Casserole

When most people hear the words 'leftovers' or 'casserole' they think gross, no thanks. (At least, my family does.)
Ok, this recipe uses leftovers and is a casserole but totally redeems the terms. I roasted a ton of bone-in skin-on chicken breast the other day (using Ina Garten's method**) and went looking for something to do with it. So it doesn't have to be with leftover turkey, as the recipe suggests, but it would be a great dish to do after Christmas or Thanksgiving when you have tons of the bird kicking around.
I made this for company one night and it fed seven of us, including Jibs and Clara, with one small serving left over.
The thing that made this meal especially good, in my opinion, was using really good bread for the topping. My favourite bread right now is actually an bun from the Caldense bakery. Their rye, seedy buns are pretty amazing. Chopped into medium sized chunks, tossed with a little parmesan cheese, melted butter, salt and pepper, it is a perfect topping.

Curried Chicken Casserole
(Adapted from Martha's Everyday Food)

1/4 C Melted Butter
1 small onion, diced small
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 C AP flour
3 Whole Milk, warmed slightly
2 Tsp curry powder
coarse salt
ground pepper
6 1/2 C broccoli florets
4 C cooked chicken or turkey, cut into 3/4 inch pieces**
3 C bread, medium dice
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 C parmesan cheese, grated
salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 400*.
Melt butter in a medium pot. Add onion, and garlic, cooking until soft but not brown, about 7 mins.
Whisk in flour and cook 1 min. Slowly whisk in milk until mixture is smooth. Cook until it comes to a simmer. Stir in curry and season with salt and pepper.
Add broccoli and cook 5 mins until softened. Stir in chicken.
Transfer mixture to a 9x11 baking dish.
In a small bowl, toss bread with butter, parm, a pinch of salt and a bit of pepper.
Top the meat and broccoli with bread. Bake until golden brown about 15 mins.
Serves 6-8 people.

**Ina's Roasted Chicken Breast (Bone in Skin on)

Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Giant Oreos

Oreo cookies are really something most everyone can agree on. Introduced in 1912, they have quickly become the best selling cookie in the USA and probably in Canada too.

The other day, I had a bag with a few cookies in it, a few arrowroot biscuits and an Oreo. Jibs saw the bag and brought it to me expectantly. I reached in the bag and pulled out an arrowroot biscuit. His, once hopeful eyes, filled with tears and he crumpled to the floor...he wanted the Oreo!

Jibs is not the only one, Clara and Jim could easily eat Oreos by the tray full.

Curious as to whether or not I could come close to the Oreo goodness found in the Nabisco bag, I tried this simple recipe found here.
The chocolate wafer is a breeze to make if you have a stand mixer or food processor, just throw in all the ingredients and blend. The filling, just as painfully sweet as the true Oreo, is a delicious filling for its crunchy chocolate surroundings.

Clara was my taste tester and absolutely loved them.

Giant Oreos

For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Set oven to 375.
Place flour, cocoa, soda, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix and then add butter and egg blending until a thick paste forms.
Roll teaspoonfuls into a ball and place on a paper lined baking sheet, pressing down lightly.
Bake 9mins.

Meanwhile, make filling. In the mixer, blend butter and shortening. Slowly add sugar, and then vanilla. Whipping until very well mixed.

Place a blob between 2 cooled cookies and squish.

Sugar Free (Not Taste Free) Apple Spice Muffins

Jibs says, "It's pretty hard to wait for these to cook, I want one now."

Having muffins or loaf around really helps in the mornings, Jim loves being able to grab something quick to eat in the car on the way to work if he doesn't have time for a large breakfast. They also travel well as a snack if we have to run out to the store. So it's nice to have a few good, healthy recipes on hand to whip up.

I don't like to give my people sugar first thing in the morning, so I worked on making this recipe tasty but also reasonably healthy and sugar-free. The sweetness comes from apple sauce and honey with some nice bits of fresh apple. These come out moist and full of flavour.

I use all whole wheat flour and I would encourage you to do the same because it adds a really nice texture and taste, but white flour would be fine too. Feel free to add a handful if walnuts or raisins to the batter at the end if you like. My peeps like plain apple spice so that's how I do them.

Apple Spice Muffins

1 C apple sauce
1/2 C honey
1/2 C butter, soft
1 3/4 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves and ginger
1 C apple, chopped
(1/2 C nuts and 1/2 C raisins or craisins, optional)

Preheat oven to 350*.
Cream together butter and honey. Add applesauce and mix well.
Combine all dry ingredients. Add the applesauce mixture to dry.
Blend just until combined. Fold in apple and extras.
Scoop into 12 lined muffin tins or 1 loaf pan.

Bake 25-30mins. (for muffins)
or 40-60mins (for loaf)

What we ate for : Dinner

Jibs says, "These are mighty tasty biscuits, I think I'll eat 2."

Moosewood Herbed Carrot Soup

2lbs Carrot, peeled and chopped
3 small potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 C Chicken or Veg stock
1 Tbsp Olive oil or butter
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic minced
2 tsp herb de provence or (1/2tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp margoram or oregano, 1 tsp basil)
1-2 Tbsp lemon juice (I forgot to add this and it was still really good)

Add carrots, potatoes and stock to a large saucepan and bring to a boil, simmer 15-20 mins.
Meanwhile in a frying pan simmer oil, onions, garlic and spices over med-low heat until soft but not brown.
Add onion to carrot mixture and puree either with a submersion blender or pour into an upright blender. Add lemon juice.

Cheddar Paprika Drop Biscuits
(Martha Stewart)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika, plus more for dusting
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
1 C cheddar, finely grated
1 1/2 cups heavy cream ( I used 1 cup whole milk and 1/2 cup plain yogurt)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and paprika. Using a pastry blender, or your fingers, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles course meal with a few larger clumps remaining. Stir in the cheese with a fork.

Add the cream (or milk and yogurt); using a rubber spatula, stir until the dough just comes together. The dough will be slightly sticky; don't over mix. Scoop dough onto baking sheet using a 1/4 C measuring cup. Lightly dust with paprika.

Bake until brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm. We dipped ours in the soup.
Jibs couldn't wait and ate his before dinner.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pizza Night

My new pizza night favourite: Whole wheat crust topped with olive oil, 2 garlic gloves minced, oregano (fresh or dried), tomatoes, chopped kale, fresh ground pepper, grated parmesan cheese, minced onion and mozzarella.

Many traditions from both my Robinson and Stowe families have carried over into the way we do things in our own family. Pizza night happens to be one thing that both our families do. Friday night is Stowe pizza night and something we all look forward to. Most pizza dough recipes that I have tried in the past have not worked for me. Either they're too complicated or they don't roll out well or just plain don't taste good. My mum-in-law's pizza dough is my favourite. It is so simple and always perfect. I prefer whole wheat flour for my crust but some of my family members disagree so we usually go white.

*If I am making this for just the four of us, I half the recipe. If it's a Robin-Stowe pizza night I use the whole recipe.

Stowe Pizza Dough

2 1/4C Warm water
2T instant yeast
1T sugar
approx. 6 cups flour (just enough to make a soft dough that doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl)
3T Olive oil
1 1/2t salt

Combine warm water, yeast and sugar in a bowl or stand mixer (fitted with dough hook attachment.) Let stand 5 mins. Add remaining ingredients, mix and knead. (If using a stand mixer let the dough knead about 2 minutes.)
(If you have time, Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise until you're ready to roll  out your dough.)
Divide dough into sections large enough for your trays, dusting rolling pin with more flour, roll out dough.
Top with sauce, toppings and cheese.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Flatbread Accoutrement II: (Re)Fried Beans

While looking for a good refried black bean recipe, I stumbled across this one by Gwyneth Paltrow. Very good as an addition to a taco or flat bread with cheese, I think I might even throw some on a nacho plate.

Gwyneth's Refried Beans

1 can black beans
4 cilantro stems
1 clove garlic crushed
pinch or 2 of salt

Combine all ingredients in a frying pan and simmer until all the bean liquid is gone, about 15-20mins. Remove stems and garlic clove. Serve.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Make Loaf, Not War

This is a fantastic loaf. We have made and eaten a lot of this lately. Jim usually grabs a few slices on his way out the door in the early morning. Eat it for dessert or with afternoon tea, it's everything one could hope for in a loaf, thus the name Everything Loaf. Another Joy the Baker gem, it is slightly sweet, and very moist. The combination of pecans, walnuts, pumpkin, spices, apple and cranberries is wonderful and wintery.
I love that this recipe makes two loaves so I can have one out for eating and one in the freezer. You could easily omit the nuts, if anyone is allergic to them or swap out dried for fresh cranberries.

Vegan Pumpkin Cranberry Apple Pecan Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree, (2 Cups)
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup maple syrup or honey
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts plus 8 pecan halves for the top
1 heaping cup fresh or 1/2 C dried cranberries
1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled and cored and cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350, grease 2 loaf pans.
In a large bowl mix together dry ingredients. In a 8 cup measuring cup (or med bowl) mix pumpkin, oil, maple and water.
Add wet to dry and told together with a rubber spatula.
Fold in nuts, cranberries and apple.
Divide between the 2 pans and line the top with pecan slices. (Sprinkle a little sugar and cinnamon on the top now if you want.)
Cook for 1- 1 1 /4 hours, until tester comes out clean.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Flat Bread's Accoutrements

Jim bought me Alton Brown's recently released cookbook, Good Eats: The Early Years. Good friends of ours, Ken and Dave Williams got me completely hooked on Alton Brown and his show Good Eats. After watching an episode, along with learning an amazing recipe, you have the science and understanding of the food or technique to make you a better cook. Alton's goal for the show was to be a combination of Julia Child, Monty Python and Mr. Wizard. If you have never watched an episode, watch an episode.

Alton's Guacumole

3 Avocados, chopped
1 lime juiced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 med onion, minced
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced

Stir together avocado and lime juice, reserve juice. Drain extra lime juice and mash in salt, cumin and cayenne with a potato masher. Fold in onion, tomatoes, cilantro and garlic. Add 1 Tbsp lime juice back to the guac. Let stand at room temp covered with saran wrap. Serve atop flatbread, or dip chips into it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

That Bread's Flat Bread

A warm, black speckled, sweet smelling tortilla is something special. Jim lived in Texas for a while and so he knows a good tortilla when he sees and tastes one. I ran out of our regular PC tortillas that were suppose to host Alton Brown's Guacamole and some of Gwyneth's refried beans. (Recipes for theses two are coming soon.) Instead of calling Jimmy to stop and pick some up on his way home from band practice, I tried something new. I've talked about The River Cottage Cafe cookbooks here before. This is their easy recipe for flat bread.

Easy Flat Bread

1 2/3 C All Purpose Flour (plus extra for dusting counter top)
1 tsp salt
1Tbsp Olive oil
2/3 C warm water

Mix together flour and salt in a large bowl. Pour oil into a measuring cup with the warm water.
Pour the water/oil mixture over the flour mixture slowly, stirring with your finger tips. Bring flour and water together to a sticky dough.

On a lightly floured surface work the dough into a ball and kneed for 5 minutes. (or have your eager assistant knead for 5 minutes) Stretching the dough, folding over and quarter turning as you go.

Cover the dough with the mixing bowl upturned on top of it. Let dough rest 15 minutes. In the mean time, prepare fillings for your bread.

Remove dough from under the bowl, roll it into a sausage shape and cut into 8 equal parts.
Flour counter top and rolling pin and roll out your dough pieces until they are the size of a salad plate (about 6-8 inches across).

Place a dry frying pan over high heat and get it really hot. Decrease heat to medium low and add your first flat disc. Flip when the bread starts to puff up and get speckley brown on the one side.

Have a clean tea towel ready to wrap warm bread in as you go.

Top cooked bread as soon as you can. They are so good warm!

Jim loves his bread straight out of the pan with a healthy smear of butter.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Baby Likes Green

Me being creepy with the VMix
Jibs Says, Green is Good!
Vita mix Love
Jibs is having a hard time waiting for his juice.

Im not sure how I got along without my Vita-Mix. About five years ago, my parents bought us the Vita-Mix for our anniversary present. Since then, we have made probably hundreds of different smoothies and juices in it. Somehow the favourites have usually been green. If you dont drink green juice, it may seem gross to you but it really is good. If the green comes from either spinach or kale, it really doesn't add any flavour to the juice. It does, however, add calcium, Vitamins A and C, potassium and iron.

I generally like pear in any juice because it adds sweetness. I also get bananas that are very ripe, cut them into chunks and throw them in a ziplock freezer bag. It's easy to take out a couple handfuls of them for your juices.

Here is what we do:

Baby Loves Green Juice

1C spinach
1C kale
1 banana (frozen and cut in chunks)
1 pear
1C yogurt (plain or vanilla)
1C water, Orange juice or milk
1T honey or maple syrup

Blend all ingredients in a Vita mix or powerful blender.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pioneer Woman's Sweet and Sour Meatballs

No not this pioneer woman.

(Photo credit and thanks go to Clara, the only one in the family with a functional camera.)

Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, has reduced me to tears more times than I would like to admit. Tears of hysterical laughter, that is. She cleverly logs her tales of farming, parenting and homeschooling with lots of pictures of their beautiful family ranch. Ree also cooks and takes tons of pictures of the food and cooking process. Her Olive Oil Cakes with Lemon and Thyme are so good. Amy brought some to one of our summer brunches and they were hard to keep out of. That reminds me, I must make those, if possible.
Jim and I went out last night for some very tasty southern BBQ. In our absence the kids ate Meatballs with Peppers and Pineapple from the blog served over rice. Easy as can be, I made it in a flash. Because it makes quite a bit of food and looks so pretty, it would be a great one to do for company.

Meatballs with Peppers and Pineapple

1¼ pound Ground Beef or turkey
½ Onion, Diced Very Finely
1 whole Egg
½ cups Breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
½ teaspoons Crushed Red Pepper, More To Taste
¼ cups All-purpose Flour
Canola Oil, For Frying
2 whole Green Bell Peppers, Seeded And Diced Roughly
1-½ cup Pineapple Chunks
2 cups Beef Stock
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
½ cups Sherry Or White Wine Vinegar
⅓ cups Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch

Mix meat, egg, onion, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and crushed pepper flakes. Roll into small balls, dredge in flour and fry in two batches over med-high heat in a large skillet until brown. Set aside. (Ree suggests freezing the balls for 15mins while you make the sauce, I didn't because I didn't have room in my freezer and they still turned out fine. If you have a big/organized freezer go ahead and freeze them.)
Mix together stock, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.
Drain any fat that is in the pan and then add green peppers and pineapple to the pan. Cook a few minutes. Add stock mixture to the pan and bubble a few minutes. Add meatballs, bubble a little more, stirring gently. Add more red pepper flakes and salt to taste.
Serve over rice.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Energy Bars for Little Hands

Most mornings I need to make Jibs a preliminary breakfast while I'm making his full breakfast. Usually he has a banana, fruit smoothie or some cheerios to chew on while his eggs and toast are cooking. Clara found a recipe for energy bars in her beloved cookbook Salad People. With a basic ingredients and a very forgiving dough, we made these lovely, filling little treats which perfectly satisfy my ever hungry boy.
One of the nice things about these bars is you can't really over mix the dough, so it's a perfect job for little hands to squish and squeeze. I used less sugar and added dried cranberries in the place of raisins. Next time I think I might add some pumpkin seeds and raisins or walnuts and dates. Protein powder is called for and easy to find at bulk food stores (I get mine at costco) but if you cannot find it or want to make them now just substitute with flour.

Diminutive Energy Bars

1C AP flour
3/4C protein powder (sub in more flour if you don't want to use protein powder)
1/2tsp salt
2C rolled oats
3/4tsp cinnamon
1/3-2/3C brown sugar
1/2C raisins (or craisins, walnuts, almonds, figs...)
1 1/2C Vanilla Yogurt (I use Astro Balkan style)
1/4 C canola oil

Preheat oven to 375*- Grease 24 muffin tins.
Combine flour, powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in oats, cinnamon, brown sugar and raisins (or any other additions that sound good).
In a 2C measuring cup whisk together yogurt and oil.
Stir wet ingredients into the dry and mix very well with your hands or the hands of a small one wanting to help.
Place about 1 1/2 Tbsps of the batter to each well greased muffin cup poking into place.
Bake 12 mins or until lightly brown around the edges. Do not overbake.
Store in an airtight container. I imagine they would freeze well if you wanted to freeze half for later. Though I haven't tried.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Whole Foods' Mexican Taco Stew

Happy New Year. December was a busy month, was it not?

For me, January seems to be my month of doing easy recipes that are delicious, quick and cheap.

Whole Foods recipes have always served me well, their Chai Cookies have become our Christmas staple. After a very kind friend gave me a Whole Foods gift card, I was inspired to check the site for new recipes and this Mexican Taco Stew is sure to be a new favourite. It takes about 10 minutes of actual hands on time and a few more to simmer, then it's done. This stew could be adapted to suit any vegetable or meat preferences. Tonight, I added green and red peppers, and a cup of frozen mixed vegetables in place of the zucchini. I only wish I had a few avocados to make guacamole and a few tortilla chips...that would finish this meal off perfectly.

PS-Check out Whole Foods budget friendly meals and Menu Plans to plan some January feasts.

PSS-I do wish my pictures were better, but our camera is in serious need of some surgery. You may have to just trust me that the food is good;)

W.F. Mexican Taco Stew

1lb Ground meat, turkey, chicken or beef
1 med onion
4 garlic cloves
2Tbsp Taco seasoning
2C Veg or chicken stock
2C Vegetables (chopped green and red pepper, zucchini)
1 can (creamed) corn
1 can black beans
1 28oz can diced tomatoes (use a smaller can if you like we love tomatoes)
1 can tomato paste (optional)
1C salsa

Cook ground meat in a large sauce pan until brown. Drain fat, set meat aside.
Add chopped onion and garlic, cooking until soft. Sprinkle taco seasoning over onion and add meat back to the pot. Stir in all the remaining ingredients and simmer 15minutes.
Top with any or all of the following: sour cream, cheddar cheese, more salsa, guacamole, tortilla chips and green onion.