Monday, March 21, 2016

cooking in someone else's kitchen

Last week, I took the boy to visit his grandfather. And while I was there, I ended up cooking a few things. Firstly, Dad had been freezing his overripe bananas and requested that I make banana bread with them. I'd done it when I was over for our family reunion last summer and he loved it. I think he may have left some of the bananas on purpose...

My Dad doesn't do much cooking anymore and never baked himself and over the years we have pared down his kitchen stuff, clearing out old and broken bits, consolidating odd sets of things and I've taken a few bits for my own kitchen (big blue casserole dish I'm talking about you), so the prospect of baking in his kitchen is a bit fraught. I made a quick shop run to buy flour, brown sugar, spices (he only has savory spices in his cupboard), vanilla, butter and eggs. He had 9 frozen bananas so I made a triple recipe of Deb's banana bread (omitting all spice but cinnamon and leaving out the bourbon) - I did find 3 loaf pans in Dad's cupboards which I don't have - most I can manage is 2 in my own kitchen. I gave one loaf to my uncle and put one in Dad's freezer and we had a few slices of one to test. Yummy.

I also decided to make supper one night instead of going out so I rummaged around in his freezer and fridge and decided to make sour cream noodle bake. My version was inspired by a Pioneer Woman recipe and is a staple of my home kitchen - filling, delicious and feeds many. I only had to buy some ricotta as the rest I cobbled from Dad's cupboards. It did take some searching to find a casserole dish large enough to accomodate this dish. There was lots left over, so some went to my uncle and both he and Dad will have a couple more meals with this.

Sour Cream Noodle Bake (inspired by Pioneer Woman)
1 tbsp oil
2 diced bison sausages
1 rasher of bacon, sliced
half a small onion, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
10 or so mushrooms, sliced
300 mL marinara sauce
270g egg noodles
454g ricotta cheese
1/4 c sour cream
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 c medium cheddar, grated

Preheat oven to 350 deg F.

Cook the noodles in salted water until al dente. Drain well.

While the noodles are cooking, in a saute pan add the oil and saute the onions until translucent, then add the sausage, bacon, pepper and mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the marinara sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To the noodles, add the ricotta, sour cream and green onion and mix until blended.

In a large casserole dish, layer half of the noodles, cover with half of the sausage mixture and half of the cheese. Add the second layer of noodles, sausage and cheese

 and bake for about 30 minutes until bubbly and the cheese is melted and golden.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

beef and barley from Jamie Oliver

For a few weeks I had a free preview of a new channel which featured lots of Jamie Oliver programs so I went down a Jamie Oliver rabbit hole for a few nights. Our weather turned nasty over Christmas with crazy wind and rain storms and no one who wasn't having to venture out for work wanted to go outside. Including the dog with his new haircut.

And the boy was having trouble getting out of his new glow-in-the-dark Jurassic World pajamas - as in he wants to wear them 24-7 and I can see a battle brewing next week when school starts back up again.

 The thought of a rich beefy stew like pot burbling away on the stove was very inticing especially as this year I did not have a fridge full of leftover turkey etc as we were treated to Christmas dinner at our in-laws. We did make a dash out into the frozen sleet to pick up barley, briefly run the dog and post a return on a disappointing Christmas toy which had broken.
a small strawberry smelling pillow made in a jiffy for the boy
 But the beef burbling did live up to my imaginings depite veering off Jamie's recipe. And provided a lovely hearty beef and barley stew for supper.

Beef and Barley Stew (adapted from Kate and Will's wedding pie from Jamie Oliver)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 knob butter
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
1 heaped tsp dried thyme
3 medium onions, peeled and chopped
900 g stewing beef, cut into 2.5 cm dice
sea salt
ground pepper
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 bottles ale
2 tbsp flour
1.2 litres stock, I used a mix of beef and chicken (I used more beer than the original recipe so less stock)
140 g pearl barley
3 tsp  English mustard (I used dijon as it was all I had)
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
100 g Cheddar cheese

Heat the oil and butter in a heavy, lidded dutch oven or casserole dish over high heat and add herbs, meat, salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Add the tomato puree, beer, stock and flour and stir everything comes together and starts to bubble. Simmer over low heat with the lid on for about 1 hour, then add the barley, put the lid on and simmer for another hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the meat shreds easily and the gravy is thick. Spoon away any oil from the top and add the mustard, worcestershire sauce and cheese. Taste and season as required.

I served this alongside a big green salad and roasted carrots. Delicious.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

counting down

Whoa. Is it just me or did December just whoosh by at super sonic speed? I am so behind on all my Christmas list - just getting the tree decorated and the cards sent but my usual cookies

 have been baked and given and parties and concerts have happened. This year I spent the first part of the month getting ready for a craft show

 and then worked as an assistant elf on a school event that happens every December. 

It's called Santa's workshop and basically families donate stuff to be given as presents. Every year the request is the same, give donations that can be gifted and that you wouldn't mind getting back as a present. Or as a friend put it, you give stuff and get other stuff back.

But I did the math, we are a net giving family as we get back two presents with one child but as my friend has three children in the school, she gets back twelve gifts (each child buys for parents and siblings). It's a wonderful day after loads of hard work sorting, washing,
bag of stuffies for washing

 packaging and decorating when the children come into the gym/workshop to choose gifts for their parents and siblings starting with the kindergardeners. The little ones come with their big buddies (kids from the upper grades) to help them choose and wrap, and for the day, the kids wear their pajamas and it is all feel good, in a gooey, marshmallowy way. 

This year our boy is a big buddy to a kindergardener so I saw him twice - once when he was helping his buddy and then when he was shopping (I wasn't allowed to watch).
 As volunteer elves helping the kids, we do have to manage the gift tables so that the big kids who come last still have a selection to choose from, which gets tricky with teen boys and dads especially. All the gifts are $2 each with the money going to various charities - this year our sister school and refugees. At the end of the day anything left can be bought for a loonie ($1) in loonie madness. Fun. After the dust settles all books go to the school library for the book sale and all other gifts are donated.

Then came the class party and now school is done for the year and we are relaxing at home - well after the decorating, gift wrapping, baking and grocery shopping is done. The dog got his Christmas hair cut

 and we had a bit of snow. We spent a couple of days visiting family on Vancouver Island

 and now are home for the holidays.

 My husband's new job in retail means he is working most of this week and next.

Last week I made a holiday version of my scones, adding hazelnuts and chocolate to them.

Chocolate Hazelnut Scones (adapted from Recipes Only Cookbook Caroll Allen- June 1989,Mcgraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd edition. )

3 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 c brown sugar
1 c butter
1 c milk
1/2 c finely chopped hazelnuts
1/2 bag of chocolate chips

In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, baking powder and brown sugar. Pulse to blend well. Add the butter and pulse until well-mixed in. Add the milk and pulse until a dough just forms. Add in the hazelnuts and chocolate chips. Dump the dough onto a counter and pat into a 3/4" thick rectangle. Cut into triangles and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 deg F for 10-15 minutes until the bottoms are golden brown.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, October 12, 2015

giving thanks

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving and normally, I would be in my kitchen prepping vegetables and making stuffing but this year, we are off to have dinner at my lovely sister-in-law's house.

 We took the boys (human and dog) to the park, the boy to do some goalie stuff and the dog to walk, it was pouring rain and all of us came home soaked. So as I add up my thanks this year I am grateful for my people - husband, son, family, our dog and cat that make our house a home,

for a roof over our heads to give us shelter and warmth, for food to nourish us and help us build connections with each other, for friends who guide, inspire, teach and cherish us and for our health which keeps us moving and growing. May all of you be blessed too!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

cauliflower cheese hash brown casserole

About a week ago, we had a lovely sunny day, with just a bit of fall in the breeze and I had a few quiet moments to myself so I curled up on my newish outdoor loveseat under a blanket and read a bit of Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries.

I was reading January, February - all about cold, grey, bitter weather and lovely things to cook then. I adore his roasted onion soup and I began to get quite hungry under my blanket out in the sunshine. I did have a strong hankering for mashed potato when I put my book down.

I had a cauliflower hanging out in my veggie drawer for a bit and so I decided to do cauliflower cheese hash brown casserole. As I had a pile of chard from the garden as well,

 I threw that into the mix for a bit of green. To balance out the greens, I added bacon. Actually it was the other way around, I added bacon, because..well, bacon. And then added the greens.

Cauliflower Cheese Hash Brown Casserole
1 head of cauliflower florets, roasted
2 large shallots, sliced
4 rashers thick cut bacon, sliced
1 big pile of chard, cut into ribbons
4 tbsp flour
560 mL milk (or broth and milk combined)
salt and pepper
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 small package of frozen diced hash brown potatoes
1 1/2 c grated cheddar or other hard cheese (I used a combination of old cheddar and goat)

Preheat your oven to 375 deg F. Add the cauliflower florets to a baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes until slightly browned at the edges.

Add the shallots and bacon to a dutch oven over medium heat and cook until the bacon is mostly cooked and the shallots are tender.

Add the chard and saute for a couple of minutes until the chard is wilted. Remove the vegetable mixture from the pan, leaving the bacon fat behind. Add the flour and milk to the pan, stirring until thickened. Season with salt and pepper and the dijon mustard. Add back the vegetable mixture, add in the roasted cauliflower and mix well. Add in the hash brown potatoes and the cheese and mix to blend.

 Bake for 30 minutes at 350 deg F until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the edges of the dish are browing. Serve warm.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

back to the rain

Last week we had a family reunion and of course it rained.

 We've had so many sunny days since the beginning of the year and this summer has been tinder dry.

Water restrictions, etc. So the one day we could have used some lovely warm weather, it rained. We had fun anyway and the rain let up for us to have a trip to the beach - although it was very windy so apart from my nephew throwing himself into the waves, no one went swimming.

 We very much enjoyed the kite surfers in the bay as well.

The huge wind and rain storm seems to have marked the turning of the season - it's been cool and grey since the weekend even though I am loathe to give up my summer wear, I've added big sweaters on top to keep warm and have been snuggling under blankets of an evening while reading. Last night I made this lovely supper thanks to Luisa at Wednesday Chef. It seemed perfect for a cool, rainy evening. And it was.

Baked Sicilian Rice (adapted from the Wednesday Chef)

I used only red peppers as that is what I had, no pepper flakes or basil as my husband can't eat chili and my basil plant didn't survive our vacation. Instead of plum tomatoes, I used a bunch of cherry tomatoes cut up that came from my cousin's garden.

320 gms arborio rice
3 tbsp olive oil, plus some for the dish
150 gm provolone, grated
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 small onions, thinly sliced (I used some red onion and shallot)
2 red peppers, sliced into thin strips
1 large eggplant, halved and sliced
handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced into thin strips (equivalent to 3 plum tomatoes)
2 tbsp salted capers, soaked and rinsed
1/4 c cured black olives, pitted

Boil a large amount of salted water in a saucepan; once boiling add the rice and simmer for about 10 minutes. Drain well and add 1 tbsp olive oil and 50 g of cheese and stir, Put aside.

Meanwhile heat the rest of the oil in a saute pan, add the garlic, onion, peppers and eggplant and cook over medium-high for 5 minutes. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, add the tomatoes and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the capers, olives and cook for 5 minutes. Season to taste.

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Oil a baking dish. Spread half the rice over the bottom of the dish. Add half the vegetables evenly over the top and sprinkle half of the remaining cheese over the top. Repeat once more. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown and bubbly. Let sit for 5 minutees and serve.