Thursday, March 27, 2014

Boston Baked Beans


Boston Baked Beans was always this mysterious food that I tried only once before and it was a dismal failure.  Maybe I didn't read the recipe properly but the end result was a fine dinner for the garbage. How could this happen?  It's not even a complicated recipe!  Baked beans is such a great warm with a little bit of tang type food that has game day written all over it.

I checked so many recipes and all of them seem to have their own little twist on what makes the perfect final product.  I found a recipe from Alton Brown that had really amazing reviews and decided that if this one doesn't work out I'll go down in the books as the blogger who couldn't prepare beans.  AND, in the spirit of sportsmanship, I decided that I'm dedicating this one to my SIL "R", a dyed in the cloth Ottawa Senator fan and always has something "not so pretty" to say about our own Toronto Maple Leafs.




Ingredients

1 pound dried Great Northern beans
1 pound bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 jalapenos, chopped
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
Vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt


Directions

Heat oven to 250 degrees F.

Soak beans in a plastic container overnight in just enough cold water to submerge them completely.

Place a cast iron Dutch oven over medium heat and stir in the bacon, onion, and jalapenos until enough fat has rendered from the bacon to soften the onions, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, dark brown sugar, and molasses.

Drain the beans and reserve the soaking liquid. Add the drained beans to the Dutch oven. Place the soaking liquid in a measuring cup and add enough vegetable broth to equal 4 cups of liquid. Add the liquid to the Dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Add in cayenne, black pepper and salt. Give them a stir and cover with the lid. Place the Dutch oven in the oven for 6 to 8 hours, or until the beans are tender.

Notes

 I don't have an oven proof dutch oven so I did the original prep in a regular pot and then transferred it all to a large oven proof casserole dish 9x13 and deep.
The reviews on this one were very accurate - delicious, easy and were gone in no time.



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Monday, March 24, 2014

Thai Red Curry Chicken


Do you believe that your sense of taste changes?  There was a time that spicy food for me was a recipe for an upset tummy.  I'm not sure where the changes happened but I'm drawn to food that has a kick to it.  Maybe it has something to do with familiarity and just having your stomach develop tolerances.  No idea.

This Thai Red Curry Chicken dish started as an experiment and was a no brainer in preparation.  The end result was a big hit.

Ingredients

2 Tbsp canola oil
3 boneless chicken breasts, cubed
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced in strips
1/2 yellow pepper, sliced in strips
1 Tbsp red curry paste
1 tin light coconut milk
1 Tbsp cornstarch

Directions

1.  Heat oil on medium in a large skillet.  Add chicken and cook until chicken is no longer pink (approximately 5 minutes)


2.  Add onion and peppers to start the cooking process.  Add red curry paste stirring to coat and infuse the flavour.
3.  Mix the cornstarch with the coconut milk and add to skillet stirring to combine.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer until the sauce thickens.



NOTE:  I added vegetables that I felt like having but there are really no vegetable boundries.


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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Veggie Samosas


My interest in making elaborate recipes has really waned.  Everything involved in preparing these recipes (picking the recipe, grocery shopping, prep, cooking, cleaning) just sounds like a huge energy sucker when a good portion of my energy already goes to caring for E.  I am too deep into toddlerhood to imagine a time when E will be more independent.  But I hear it happens.  

This recipe was R's initiative and his never-ending quest for vegetarian recipes. 

Potato Vegetable Samosas

Dough
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¾ cup warm water

Filling
2 ½ cups peeled and diced Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 tablespoon cumin seed
2 teaspoons coriander seed
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup finely diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 package (1 lb), frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess juices squeezed out
½ cup frozen peas, thawed
salt and pepper
vegetable oil for frying

Dough
1. For dough, combine flour and salt. Stir in oil, then stir in warm water. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured worksurface and knead until dough is elastic, about 5 minutes.
2. Cover and set aside while preparing filling.


Filling
1. Boil potatoes uncovered in salted water until tender, then drain well and set aside.
2. In a large sauté pan, toast fennel, cumin and coriander seeds for 2 minutes (until a fragrance is noticeable). Add oil, then onion and sauté for 4 minutes, until onion is translucent. Add garlic and ginger and sauté one minute more. 



Stir in spinach, peas and cooked potatoes, mashing lightly to combine and warm, then season to taste. Let filling cool.


3. To assemble samosas, divide dough into 12 equal portions and shape each portion into a ball. On a lightly floured surface,roll out 1 ball into a 6-inch circle. Cut circle in half. Fold 1 corner of semicircle up and over middle. Fold second corner over to make triangle, and pinch corners of triangle to seal (leave rounded side open). Hold triangle in your hand with open rounded side facing up and let dough fall open to make cone. Fill cone with approximately 2 tablespoons potato mixture, then pinch along rounded side to seal.


4. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Cover and chill samosas until ready to cook.
5. Fill a pot with 2-inches of oil (make sure oil fills pot not more than halfway) and heat to 350 F. With tongs, place samosas in oil, leaving an inch between them, and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn over and cook other side until brown, then remove onto a paper-towel lined plate to drain.
6. Samosas can be served warm or at room temperature with mango chutney.
7. TIP: Alternately, the samosa can be brushed with an eggwash and baked at 375 °F on a parchment-lined baking tray for 30 minutes. (that's what we did)



Verdict:  Just okay....My spices could have been fresher. Tonne of dishes.  Good for freezing....though I haven't really felt like defrosting them.
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Monday, March 17, 2014

Chicken Pot Pie


My mother has always been concerned about what she eats.  The fear of putting on weight is as strong as the obsession about food.  I know, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense... unless you know my mother.  A fridge full of food ensures that she'll always be able to feed others.

Mom is also a very fussy eater.  She's not able to cook for herself anymore so keeping her stocked with meals can be a head scratcher.  Today, I chose a recipe from All Recipes and made her a chicken pot pie; with a side of kale salad, she's good.








 1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cubed
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup frozen green peas
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
2 (9 inch) unbaked pie crusts


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C.)

In a saucepan, combine chicken, carrots, peas, and celery. Add water to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.

In the saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place the chicken mixture in bottom pie crust. Pour hot liquid mixture over. Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.















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Saturday, March 15, 2014

San Diego & Palm Springs


Is this winter over yet?  A couple of days ago, I almost took a picture of the dirty, yellow grass I saw poking out from under a tree (where the snow must have not piled too high over the winter).  Just to celebrate a grass sighting.  Of course, that was before the additional 10cm we got the following day.

My new approach seems to be, if I buy enough stuff for warmer weather, it will warm up.  So far, I've purchased a rain suit and a water table for E.  But then R bought some mittens, so maybe that will set us back a week.

Thankfully, we did have some respite from the winter.  We spent time in San Diego and Palm Springs. Here are some of my favourite pictures from the trip.

Walking down Pacific Beach:


E watching the ducks in Seaport Village.  Throwing sand on the beach -- she would pick up a handful and yell "more!"


 Tall ship and kiss statue


USS Midway -- we did a tour


 Sunset at Pacific Beach


San Diego zoo (had to go back now that E is old enough to notice the animals)




Drawing at the New Children's Museum


Feeding the giraffes at The Living Desert


Butterfly area in the Living Desert (only saw this butterfly)


A palm tree oasis at the start of Murray Canyon


Sitting on a motorcycle at the Palm Springs Children's Museum.  Tree climbing at a nearby park in Palm Springs.




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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Braised Polish Red Cabbage


The health benefit of cabbage is not a new and trendy story.  A natural antioxidant and anti inflammatory, it's right up there on the "what to cook for baba" hit parade.  You can, if you're interest read more about the good stuff cabbage has to offer here.

East Europeans have always had cabbage, both green and red as a staple in their diet.  It's simple to prepare and with the right spices, the bitterness is gone and the flavour shines through.







1 medium head of red cabbage, shredded
1 onion, shredded
2-3 Tbls vegetable oil
1 cup water
3-4 Tbsp red wine vinegar
brown sugar to taste
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Wash cabbage and remove outer leaves that are usually dirty
2.  Cut cabbage in half and remove the center core.  Shred as thinly as you can.  Shred onion.
3.  Warm oil in dutch oven or good solid large pot, add cabbage and onion, reduce heat to medium.
4.  As the cabbage releases its moisture, the volume minimizes.  Add water and keep the cooking process at a slow pace until cabbage is soft.
5.  Add red wine vinegar, brown sugar (I used about 1/4 cup) and salt and pepper, mix well and allow to cook a few more minutes.

My mom loved the cabbage!  A hit!!
The condo building I live in has alot of Russian families who live here.  I've spoken to several of them about how they make their cabbage and many have told me to use "sour salt".  If you can find it - it took me a while but it gives it an added kick.  
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Monday, March 10, 2014

Date and Nut Loaf


I've been told many times about my obsession with food.  I am one of 4 siblings and we all have this same "condition".  It's not gluttony but more an obsession of buying food, having it in the house and making sure the cupboards are full.  When the family gets together we will often laugh at each other and ourselves.  We also know that we've inherited this craziness from my mother (aka baba).  She went without for a very long time and as we were growing up, mom always made sure we had the freshest and best quality food she could afford and the fridge was always full.

I also have this love/hate relationship with Costco.  It's like going into a fantasy world of big volumes and bigger is better, right?  Not so much.  How many times have you gone into a Costco store, bought something in large quantity and then realized it might last you a lifetime.  This was my dilema when I decided I needed a 2 kg (2.2 lb) bag of pitted dates.  Every time I open my baking cupboard I look at that bag and shake my head at my own impulsiveness.  I went to my old standby recipe for date and nut loaf at Cooks.com and began the bakefest.





2 c. chopped dates
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. boiling water
3/4 c. sugar
2 tbsp. shortening
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. sifted all purpose flour
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine dates and baking soda; cover with boiling water and let stand
until cool.
Cream sugar and shortening together, add egg and vanilla and
beat until combined.
Add cooled date mixture, flour, walnuts, and salt; stir until just combined. Do not beat. Scrape mixture into greased 9 x 5 x 3
inch loaf pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes. Makes one loaf.

This recipe doubles and triples well so if you happen to have alot of dates, this is the way to go.
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Friday, March 7, 2014

Hamentashen for Purim



Purim this year begins the evening of March 15 and ends the evening of March 16.  This celebration commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from the evil plot of destruction from Haman.  He was not successful.  Each year, we mark this holiday by recanting the story (the megillah).  During the storytelling whenever the name of Haman is said out loud, the audience use noise makers to erase the sound of his name while stomping their feet.

Purim was always one of my very favourite holidays; essentially the only time as children we were encouraged to make lots of noise.  The custom is to make hamentashen, a triangular shaped cookie filled with one or many different fillings.  The triangle shape is meant to be symbolic of Haman's ears. We also take time during this holiday to make up small food gifts to share with family and friends, usually some cookies and also to perform acts of kindness for those in need.  That's not to say we don't display acts of kindness regularly but during this holiday it's somehow more purposeful.

The most fun of Purim as children was to dress up (kind of like Halloween costuming) in the images of the time.  You see alot of queen, bad guy, and hero type costumes.

I've always made hamentashen and this year is no different.  The recipe I used for years seemed just a little too cake like so I surfed to find a new one to try.  I think I hit pay dirt  when I checked out The Shiksa.  I was so happy to find two different dough recipes, one with butter and a second without.  She also has a wonderful tutorial on her blog and I actually used her method this year and it worked beautifully.  Once you get a rythym going with the assembly it's a breeze.

A good tip is to make your filling first.  The dough, if left too long can go dry.  I made a batch of prune filling (very typical filling for these cookies)



Prune Filling

1 lb (2 cups) soft dried prunes
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Put ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth.

Dough

2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1.  Whisk eggs, sugar, canola oil, orange zest and vanilla together.    I did everything by hand - you don't need a mixer.

2.  In a second bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

3.  Slowly add the flour mixing in a circular motion with a wooden spoon until flour is incorporated.  Hand knead until you get to a smooth and slightly tacky consistency.

4.  Lightly flour your work surface and your rolling pin and roll out to approximately 1/4".  The thinner the dough, the crispier the cookie.  Using a 3" cutter or glass, cut rounds and put a tsp of filling in the center of each cookie.  Fold over left side towards the center, then the right side to join to the top third of the cookie.  Bring up the bottom part of the dough to pinch the ends.

5.  Bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes (my oven was 18 minutes)

** Make sure you visit The Shiksa's blog for an amazing tutorial on how to assemble the hamentashen.  Her method is great and no lost filling.  Yield is about 3 dozen so tomorrow I'm making a double batch with apricot filling and poppy seed filling.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Filipino Chicken Adobo


Toronto winter for my mom (also known as baba, lola and nona) is very isolating.  Her mobility
has deteriorated and needs to have 24/7 personal care.  We're very lucky to have a couple of caregiverswho take such good care of her and keep her totally on track with both her medical and nutritional care.   
Over the past several years we've made it possible for her to spend the extreme months in warmer climates.  We took her primary caregiver, Emma, with us to Palm Springs, CA.  Seriously, I have no idea how we would manage without her.  Emma is from the Phillipines and has made many sacrifices to come to Canada under the caregiver program to work towards creating a better life for herself and her family.  While away in California this winter, we decided to create theme dinners and one of them was designed to honour our Emma and prepare one of her favourite dishes - chicken adobo.  

I'd never made chicken adobo before and when I saw the ingredients I somehow didn't see the ingredients complimenting one another.  Boy, was I wrong!  Everybody loved it.  Most importantly, Emma loved it and said it reminded her of home.




Ingredients

4 -5 lbs. chicken thighs
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce (I used light)
12 cloves garlic, crushed
3 bay leaves
Pepper to taste

Directions

In a large dutch oven, add vinegar, soy sauce, crushed garlic, bay leaves and pepper

Add chicken thighs.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer with lid on.

Half way through cooking - approximately 1 hr, turn chicken to immerse second side of thighs to sauce.

Braise until chicken is tender, another hour.  Drain chicken, retaining sauce.  Return sauce to pot cooking for another 10 minutes.  Add the chicken back to the pot.

Serve with rice and pour sauce over the top.  Enjoy!
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