Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A Taste of the Past

I got a letter in the mail today!!  Yes, the mail - you know the box attached to the front of your house?  It actually can contain interesting items besides bills and spam.  Is junk mail of the paper variety called spam?  Just wondering.

Anyway, I knew right away who it was from and what it was.  It was a letter from my mom containing a recipe that I had asked for last week.  My parents are retired and, on top of all of the exceptionally interesting things that we talk about that reflect our exceptionally interesting mutual lives, sometimes we take delight in talking about every-day events, like what we're going to make for supper, when and what we're going to bake next, and what's on sale at the Co-op this week.  You know, the stuff that relationships thrive on, the ordinary being shared. 

I guess I was telling them that I was trying to bake my way through a carton of buttermilk, wishing that buttermilk was sold in smaller cartons!  They told me about some of the ways that they like to use buttermilk - like the "old German" dish of buttermilk in a bowl with boiled eggs sliced into it, served with a piece of bread to sop it all up.  I've got one word for that dish:   P-A-S-S.  Then mom reminded me that she used to use buttermilk to make this cake that we literally grew up on - "Crumb Cake".   I have gone searching through my recipe files, looking for a copy of this recipe a few times, and could never find it, thinking that it was strange because this was such a staple at home.  I often substituted my spice cake craving by making the "Lazy Daisy" cake instead, which is good, but it's not mom's Crumb Cake.

So, when her handwritten copy of the recipe arrived in the mail this afternoon, I scanned the list of ingredients and knew that I had everything I needed to make this.  I started to get myself organized, and the simplicity of the recipe struck me.  It - is - so - simple.  And, when I think about it further, that reflects the times in which we used this recipe.  Back in those days, we baked crumb cakes to survive, almost.  We were a farming family who worked hard.  We didn't have much.  In the spring, we managed a herd of cattle that had just had babies and filled the windowsills with tomato plants to kick-start the garden.  In the summer, we worked hard in the huge garden and in the hay field.  In the fall, we ALL harvested day after day until every speck of grain was in the bin.  In the winter, we cared for our cattle again.  There were no breaks.  And we worked hard and we were hungry.  So cakes and cookies weren't just after school treats, they were necessities to fuel us for the work that was required for this family to survive.  Crumb cake showed up after school, for the 1/2 hour that Dad and Mom would stop their chores, have a cup of coffee, and sit with us to listen to our stories of school.  Crumb cake was taken to the field in the harvest time with a quart sealer of coffee for Dad while he worked non-stop.  Crumb cake was eaten for dessert after supper with a cup of sweet tea, after the cattle had been bedded down for the cold winter's night. 

Today's bakers are making artistic rolled cookies, with lavish icing designs.  They are baking cookies with chopped up chocolate bars inside to accelerate the "wow" factor.  Layered cakes are getting higher and higher.

But my mom made us Crumb Cake, with milk that came from the cows in our barn or with the buttermilk from the butter she churned herself. 

Okay, now I'm starting to get choked up.

And I'm starting to feel like I must have grown up in the Dark Ages.

They were different times, for sure.

So, for your nostalgic pleasure, here is a cake with a very simple list of ingredients, and a very rich set of memories for this chickie.

Crumb Cake

2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup margarine.

Rub together into crumbs and take out 1 cup for topping.

Now add:
1 cup milk (soured with 1 tsp vinegar, or buttermilk if available)
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda OR baking powder
pinch salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup raisins (soaked or boiled to plump)

Mix.  Put into 9" square baking pan, greased.  Sprinkle crumb mixture on top and pat down.  Bake 30-40 minutes in a 350 F oven.

Mom says that it could also be made into muffins instead.  She also says that it turns out better in a metal pan; the glass pan cooks it too fast and makes it dry out on the bottom.  That's her story, and I'm stickin' to it.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Keep It Simple, Silly!

We did, indeed, have dinner guests today!  We really went from Plan A to Plan B to Plan C by the time the meal was served, but all things, including the guests, were in God's good timing!

Over the years of having guests in our home, I have learned to keep things simple, menu-wise.  And, like my dear Mom, I am also learning that the more that I can do ahead of time, the less stress happens when the house is full of hungry people and I am trying to do 15000 things at once.  I'm not very nice when I try to do 15000 things at once.  People always used to ask me what they could do to help me; my reply was always "stay out of my kitchen".  Sounds kinda snarky, now that I think about it.  I think I would enjoy help more if our kitchen's floor space was bigger; even with our renovation, it's still a one-man spot.  A two-man spot if it's Dean and I and we know what the other person is trying to accomplish.

Anyway......

My menu for today was:
1.  Simple tossed salad (with baby greens for the lettuce because they look so pretty) and only 2-3 added vegetables
2.  Dilled carrots.  I am still using carrots from our garden and am determined to use the carrots up, instead of throw them away from spoiling in the fridge.  I love dill weed with carrots.  A splash of color and nice mild flavor to make the carrots a little more special.
3.  Roasted garlic mashed potatoes
4.  Honey Mustard Pecan Chicken  (see recipe below)
5.  Cream Puffs!  Yup, I did it and they were marvelous!  I served them with two different fillings - lemon filling and white chocolate/raspberry filling.  Now that I've made cream puffs, I will definitely make them again for a nice light dessert that was economical.  Next time I would only make one filling but I enjoyed the experiment of picking a flavor favorite.  Surprisingly, lemon won today!

I picked up Ina Garten's recipe book "Barefoot Contessa Back To Basics" for $5.00 this week at El Tigre Gigante (title courtesy Dean). She reinforces the notion of keeping a menu simple with only one "star".  I felt that this recipe was the "star" today and it is a really nice make-ahead option.

Honey Mustard Pecan Chicken
(serves 6)

2 eggs
2 Tbsp water
1 packet Shake and Bake (Regular or Extra Crispy)
1 cup finely chopped pecans
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Heat oven to 400 F.

Beat eggs and water in a shallow dish.  Mix Shake and Bake with pecans in a separate shallow baking dish (a loaf pan worked really well).  Dip chicken in eggs and then in coating mixture, turning to coat evenly on both sides of chicken breast.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet/broiler pan.

Bake for 18-25 minutes until chicken is done.

Honey Mustard Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup whole grain mustard
1/4 cup honey
3 dashes Tabasco sauce
6 dashes Worcestershire sauce

Mix all ingredients together.  Serve this sauce on or beside the chicken.

As far as making things ahead, I made the Sauce last night and refrigerated it overnight, helping the flavors to blend.  I chopped the pecans and mixed them with the Shake and Bake last night as well, so that today I only had to coat the chicken and cook it.  There was no gravy to make, no roast to carve, and the chicken was already in serving sized portions.  That was nice.

The reward for my labors was having our guests rave over the chicken and go back for seconds.  Makes me want to entertain more often.  Maybe I should start planning now.....  Who would like to come?

Friday, 25 March 2011

Things Meant To Be Shared

Hello again, friends!

Normal routines have been circulating around here again lately, routines of work and laundry and grocery shopping, etc., etc.  By now, you have probably picked up my love for food and for eating well, but that doesn't mean that every meal we eat is a feast.  We have our very ordinary days and yesterday's supper was ..... LEFTOVERS!!!  Or, more poetically, buffet, smorgasbord, all-you-can-eat courtesy "Le Fridge".  The fridge is pretty well purged now, so we can start again with fresh meals. 

We have extended a couple of dinner invitations for the weekend, but don't know if they are going to materialize yet.  I have the menus planned, with the exception of the desserts.  Dessert always leaves me searching endlessly for new ideas.  I am "okay" at pie making but that is a labor of love, focus on the LABOR.  We aren't a cake family, so that option never excites us too much.  I love a good cheesecake, but hasn't that been overdone?  I look back at some of the desserts that I enjoyed in the 1990's, and now they seem to all have the same ingredients - graham crusts, pudding, cool whip and cream cheese.  I'd like to be a bit more sophisticated than that...  I'm thinking about cream puffs, although the websites are scaring me a bit as apparently these can flop...  Any suggestions? 

I guess, though, the point of having dinner guests isn't only about the food - or seldom about the food.  Some of the best memories I have of last summer are throwing meals together with friends while we camped together.  She brought a bit of this and I brought a bit of that, and we sat down and shared what we had and we feasted - both on food and on the simple joy of companionship.  The cool thing about cooking when you camp is that there isn't much pretense - you can only cook what you brought and fine dining seldom makes the cut when you plan for that.

One of the things that my camping friend (thanks Lorelie!!) shared with me was chai tea lattes.  She introduced me to the boxed concentrate, and I went on a city-wide search for the stuff when I got home, before knowing that it was a Starbucks product.  I just had to have some for myself and I so wanted to share my newfound addiction with anyone who came to visit!  But, let me tell you, that stuff is kinda pricey.  And it's caffeinated.  Those are a couple strikes against it, although it is still cheaper to make it at home than to buy it at Starbucks. 

It's a few months later now, and we have both found recipes to make our own concentrate.  Wow, the savings is unreal.  The flavor is more intense, and can be altered to suit your likings.  I love the peppery flavor, so I go a bit heavy on that ingredient.  I have also made mine decaff so that I can enjoy a latte any time of day/evening.

Here is the recipe:

Spiced Chai Tea Concentrate

4 1/2 cups water
1 stick cinnamon
1 piece fresh ginger, chopped (about the size of your thumb)
7 whole cardamom pods
2 whole star anise pods
10 whole cloves
1/4 tsp black pepper (or more, if you like it peppery!)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp orange zest
10 tea bags (I used decaff Red Rose.  You could also use tea leaves - 10 tsp - of any tea blend that you like)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp vanilla

Bring the water to a boil.  Add the spices and tea, remove from heat and let steep 15-20 minutes, depending on how strong you want it.  Strain and add the brown sugar, honey and vanilla. Stir to combine.

Mix one part concentrate with one part milk.  Heat and serve, or pour over ice for an iced option.

I store the concentrate in a pitcher in the fridge.  I don't think it spoils; I've kept mine there for quite a few days/weeks.

Now, don't pass on this recipe just because of the length of the ingredient list!  I went to Nutters and got everything I needed and, including the tea, it cost me well under $10, and I have enough to make at least 4 batches of the concentrate.  For a price comparison, a one litre tetra pack box of the concentrate at Starbucks costs $6.99.  I have enough ingredients to make at least 4 times that, for under $10.00 total.

But don't just make the concentrate; make it, and share it with a friend.  And while you're sharing a cup of tea with a friend, share your thoughts, your dreams, your passions, your self.  Share a cup while you're in the kitchen, in the car, at the lake.  I know my life has been richer for the times I have shared with a friend.  Like last night - when I had a cup of tea with a friend who I knew when we were teenagers, but then we grew up and lost touch and then found each other again and picked up where we left off, 30 years later.  How cool is that?  Thanks Evonne!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Grilled Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper Panini's, Pass or Fail?

I am a fan of Pioneer Woman.  I think Dixie first pointed me in her direction (thanks, Dix!).  She is one of the queens of the Cooking Blog world, having published a cook book, a fiction book, and having made many appearances on TV shows, including a ShowDown with Bobby Flay.  She has a huge following and is both brilliant, relevant and, above all, entertaining.

Part of my daily routine is to read her blog and, well, find out "what's cookin' ".  Did that this morning and knew that I'd like to try the panini recipe she posted today.  In its' original format, it looked like a recipe that Dean and I would enjoy, verbatim. The boys, not so much.  Their version would be pared down and simplified from the original.  After a quick trip to the grocery store, supper prep began.

I'll show you the recipe, but after that, let's talk...

Grilled Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper Panini's

2 chicken breasts

8 whole sundried tomatoes, packed in oil
3 Tbsp basil pesto
1 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper

2 red peppers*

1/4 cup mayonnaise
8 slices bread
softened butter
8 slices mozzarella

Combine the tomatoes, pesto, oil, juice and S and P in a mini-chopper and blend until smooth.  Set 1/2 of the mixture aside.  Flatten the chicken breasts into equal shaped pieces and marinate in the other half of the marinade mixture.  Let marinate for as long as you can - a few hours or even overnight.

Roast and peel 2 red peppers [*OR buy roasted red peppers in a jar].  (If you don't know how to roast peppers, do an internet search on that.  Simple process.  I did mine under the broiler.)  When roasted and peeled, slice into1" slices.

Grill the chicken breasts until cooked through and then slice on the diagonal.  Set aside.

Combine the second half of the marinade mixture with 1/4 cup mayo. 

Butter the bread as for grilled cheese sandwiches.  On the inside of the sandwich, layer the mayo mixture, sliced chicken, slices of red peppers and top with mozzarella slices.  Top with the second piece of bread and toast until golden brown.


Now, let's talk:

Half way into prep of this recipe, I said to Dean "this is more work than cooking a turkey dinner".  For amount of steps that this recipe requires to yield, let's face it, a SIMPLE SANDWICH, I am tempted to give it a "fail".  Maybe I was tired by that time of the day.  I don't know.  But it seemed fairly labor intensive.  Broil the peppers, peel the peppers, slice the peppers.  Make the marinade.  Flatten the chicken breasts.  Marinate the chicken breasts.  Cook the chicken breasts.  Slice the chicken breasts.  Butter the bread.  Mayonnaise the bread.  Slice the cheese.  Layer, layer, layer.  HMMMM.  DON'T KNOW ABOUT THIS...

Once we sat down for supper, my "fail" rating quickly became an "oh-this-is-ever-so-good-of-course-it-is-a-pass".  It really IS tasty.  Really. 

So, when Dean asked if it is a "Make Again" recipe, I had a hard time answering that question.  No question, buying jarred roasted red peppers would ease the work load.  Making the marinade and marinating the chicken overnight would spread the work out over a couple of days, if you are inclined to be organized.  ...Sometimes I am, sometimes I'm not....  I've often thought that it would be a quick kitchen tip to grill a whole package of chicken breasts as soon as you get home from the store, slice and freeze them, and use for salads or other recipes that require cooked chicken.  Or, maybe you could skip the marinating step and simply add the flavors of the sundried tomatoes/pesto in the mayonnaise mixture alone.  That would help, too.

So there, my first "I'm not sure" rating for this "Make Again" blog that is supposed to provide you with recipes that are ALL "Make Again" quality!  The point to be made here is that, flavor-wise, it's fantastic.  Work-wise, not as fantastic as I'd like it to be.  Are there ways to work with the ingredients/prep that will make it more friendly?  I think so.  So, yes, "Make Again" - Grilled Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper Panini's.  Go for it!

(I don't have a panini grill, by the way.  You could brown the sandwich on a griddle, or in a frying pan, and it is recommended that you place another pan on top of the sandwich to weigh it down, I guess to brown and compact it like a panini grill would do.  We used our George Foreman grill with fantastic results.  Once, we attempted a panini sandwich in our waffle maker with mediocre results.)

To read Pioneer Woman's far more entertaining blog post of this recipe, follow this link:  http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/ 

Baked Oatmeal

Hello again from my perch at the island!  Coffee is my neighbor, along with hubby at his laptop playing, once again, interesting guitar vids on his laptop.  The kids are half awake, half asleep, with no school today and nothing specific on the agenda except returning their sleepover friend to his home sometime today.

I love breakfast!  I seriously lay in bed some days, thinking about what I will eat when I get up.  I sigh through my morning coffee, savoring every steaming hot sip, sputtering at the cold stuff that remains at the bottom of the cup.  But I love a morning when no one has to be anywhere and you can take time to stray from the normal toast and cold cereal options.

This following recipe was served at a ladies' retreat that I was at a year ago.  I returned home from the retreat and, thanks to the World Wide Web, quickly found a comparative recipe and have been cooking it for breakfast on occasion ever since. 

Baked Oatmeal
Ingredients
  • ½ cups Vegetable Oil
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 whole Eggs
  • 1-¼ cup Milk
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • 1-½ teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 3-½ cups Quick Cooking Oats
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • ¼ cups Maple Syrup (I think this is optional; it is plenty sweet as is)
  • 1 dash Vanilla
Preparation Instructions
Beat together oil, brown sugar and eggs. Stir in milk. Mix in salt, baking powder, oats, cinnamon, vanilla and syrup. Pour into a greased 9-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees until firm, about 30 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm with milk.
I often add some "add-ins" - fresh or dried blueberries, a diced apple, a handful of sliced almonds, raisins, dried apricots....the sky is the limit for creativity with add-ins.

One pan of this is good for 9-10 (ish) servings.  Since the boys are largely uninterested in anything so delicious, we eat it fresh for breakfast one day and then refrigerate it and heat-and-serve the leftovers for the rest of the week.  I really like taking it to work for my morning break ("second breakfast" as Merry and Pippin would say...name that movie....)!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

"Eat Again" Dutch Baby Pancake

Supper is prepped for tonight.  Parent/teacher interviews are done for another semester (and the boys are so awesome!  Teachers are too!).  I got my baking done yesterday and came close to a cinnamon crisis in regards to the Snickerdoodles!  I ran out.  Yikes!  That has never happened.  I always have extra cinnamon stashed somewhere.  I actually have 2 different cinnamon shakers for different purposes.  There's the big cinnamon shaker for the "use cinnamon in large quantities when making cinnamon buns" and the small shaker for "just a pinch" cookies and cakes.  Regardless, I used every spec of cinnamon I could find in the house and managed to get them all coated sufficiently and they went over well with the family.  Andrew had a friend over they kept coming back for more cookies, especially the friend, so I finally told the friend to "GET YOUR FILTHY FINGERS OUT OF THE COOKIES!!!"  Actually, it was more like "you've had enough...no more...thanks so much." 

I baked one more thing yesterday that I want to share with you, but I think I want to try it again, giving the recipe a few tweaks before putting it on here as a family favorite.

I offered today's post to someone else to write as a guest blog, but that offer was denied so I'll post it myself!  This recipe will be labelled as an "eat again" recipe instead of a "make again", since I didn't make it in the first place.  Dean was strolling through the internet this morning and found this recipe and promptly got busy and made it for our breakfast.  Hot out of the oven, it was yummy ++ !!  And he got to use his favorite kitchen tool - one of our (many) cast iron frying pans.

Ladies and gentleman, from Dean's kitchen to yours, here's Dutch Baby Pancakes

3 Tbsp butter
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 425 F. 
2.  In oven proof skillet/cast iron pan, melt the 2 Tbsp butter over medium heat; set aside.
3.  In a blender, combine eggs, milk, flour, salt, vanilla and sugar.  Blend until foamy, about one minute.
4.  Pour batter into skillet; bake 20 minutes, until pancake is lightly browned and puffed.
5.  Dot butter on baked pancake and sprinkle with icing sugar (or can you imagine sugar and cinnamon?!!)

The pancake will fall when removed from the oven but don't worry about that.  Serve immediately.  Serves 3-4.

Thanks for breakfast, Dean!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Sun, Sledding, Snow Forts, Sleeplessness, Steve, Stew and Snickerdoodles

It's been busy since my last post.  Don't give up on me!  I do plan to be faithful!

Today's post is brought to you by the letter "S"; and is a non-all-inclusive list of why I've not posted for a week!

Sun - finally came out and warmed up my world.  Which, of course, led me to spend the weekend...

Sledding!  I told the boys that I'd be going and that somebody better come with me!  (No, I don't think I actually said that... I think I said something about loving their company, and we'd have fun and yadda yadda...)  Anyway, they came with me, we sledded and I loved every minute.  What am I going to do when they have left home?  The hill is so close to the house, maybe I'll slip away and go alone while all the neighborhood kids are in school.  I DID have their company sledding, which is more than I can say for my time spent making...

Snow Forts!  After Dean and the boys spent far too long shoveling the back deck area to prevent horrible spring thaw leaks into the basement, there were such luscious piles of snow in the back yard.  I begged Ben to come and help me and got half hearted efforts from him.  So, all by my lonesome, I made a couple of snow forts.  Hmm.  Even as I type this, it seems a little ridiculous that I did that for my own entertainment.  But I did!  And such cool spots for a snowy hideout.  I think I'll head there sometime today between the call of the washing machine and the dirty floors...  Ben thought the whole idea was boring.  Huh??  Where did that boy come from?

Sleeplessness hit me squarely between the eyes, even after all of that outdoorsy stuff and totally interfered with my life and happiness.  Seriously, who invited her to the party?

Steve (Bell, that is) drew us to Saskatoon for his concert last night and what a concert it was.  The quality and depth of musicianship between him and his band is amazing and so enjoyable.  Got to sit with my sister (see all the "S" words I'm hitting on?!!)  Uplifting time. 

Stew - good old reliable, nourishing stew is on the menu for today.  No new recipe to share for this meal, but being the cooking geek that I am, I am going to ditch the slow cooker again and experiment making stew in my Kitchen Aid cast iron dutch oven again in a slow oven (about 300 F).  I've been a major fan of my slow cooker for stew for years now, but this dutch oven is interfering with that love affair.  There is something to be said for a slow roast that mellows the flavors in a different manner than you get in a slow cooker.

Snickerdoodles are on my to-do list today, too.  I think Snickerdoodles are the "middle child" of the cookie world.  Not as popular as the "center of the cookie universe" like chocolate chip, and not as fussy and time consuming as a rolled and decorated sugar cookie (have you been watching some of the cookie decorating that is going on in the internet these days??!!!)  Snickerdoodles are a cookie hit in this house, even with Mr. Ben, who comes up with all sorts of likes and dislikes.  They are a great cookie to make when the pantry is low on all the expensive chocolate/nuts, etc. that other recipes call for.  To me, they are simple, satisfying comfort food, and you can be sure that there will be a good cup of tea to be had when they are finished.  (Hey, maybe tomorrow's post will be for my Chai Tea Latte concentrate?  Can't be beat!)

Snickerdoodles

1 cup softened butter/marg
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

2 Tbsp white sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Cream butter and first amount of sugar.  Beat in eggs 1 at a time.

Mix in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.  Shape into 1 inch balls.

Stir remaining sugar and cinnamon together in a small dish  Roll balls in mixture to coat.  Place on cookie sheet and flatten slightly.  Bake at 400 F for 7 to 8 minutes.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Timing Is Everything

Timing is everything.

My work shoes have worn out and my feet and legs are increasingly sore after shifts.  I am one fussy gal when it comes to work shoes; they HAVE to be better than "okay"; we walk so much during a day, our feet really take a beating.  So, yesterday I decided to begin the search for the perfect shoe (where is Cinderella's prince with the magic glass slipper that only fits me???)  My search led me to Wal-mart, hoping that there would be some Dr. Scholl's wonder for a few bucks that would do the job.  I tried on every shoe possible.  Off came the boot, on went the size 8 1/2; off came the size 8 1/2, on came the boot.  Up and down the aisle I went, searching for the perfect fit.  Took longer than I wanted it to and eliminated the opportunity to go to another shoe store.  Next stop was Superstore.  I'm pretty organized when I grocery shop but I got all the way to the end of the store and realized that I had to re-trace my steps and make at least 3 stops on my way back to the checkout.  So I did that and stood in a long line up, texting Dean that I'd be late because I was in a long line up and, yeah, grr. 

Then I looked in the line up next to me and did a double take when I saw an old classmate.  Now, I hate to tell on myself, but I've been out of high school for more-than-25-less-than-30 years-ish.  ISH.  Ahem.  In spite of living an hour away from my home town, I have lost touch with pretty well all my classmates.  My delight was immeasurable as Geraldine and I stood in the line-up, with silly grins on our faces, repeating to each other "How ARE you?"  "I'm good!!  How are YOU?" back and forth until we could get out of the silly line-up and really talk.

It. Was. So.  Nice.  We beamed.  We laughed.  We didn't want to leave.  It's probably been 20 years since we've seen each other.  "Give me a call sometime.... we'll have coffee!"  We beamed some more.  Shared a hug and giggled our way to our vehicles, wow, a lot richer than we were before.

I'm glad my shoes wore out.  If I still had good shoes, I would have missed her.

And now a very silly segue into today's recipe! 

When "timing is everything" and you think you don't have enough time for anything homemade, consider this one!

HAM AND BEAN SOUP

Place 1 meaty ham bone, one chopped onion and 3-4 chopped carrots in a soup pot and cover with water, bringing to a boil.  Add in one pound of dried beans and return to a boil.  Boil for 10-15 minutes.  Turn down to a simmer.  (Chances are you won't have to add ANY salt to this soup.  Taste first!)

Walk away.
Come back.  Stir the pot.
Walk away.
Repeat, for about 3-4 hours.
The end.

How can you say you don't have time for that?!!  But at the end of the day, you can dust a little flour on your face, wipe the sweat off your brow and exclaim how wonderful it is for your family to sit down to a pot of fresh homemade soup, and remind them how hard you work to make HOMEMADE soup, and gently suggest that, really, they should do the dishes.

Timing is everything.

Monday, 7 March 2011

White Chicken Chili

....and I'm back...!  Had a great weekend at work; putting my apron back on.

Today's recipe is a long time family favorite.  If you have ever been invited to our home and came back more than once, you were probably served this meal.  It is always a crowd favorite and I don't think there's ever been a soul who didn't like the meal.

Now that I've said that, maybe one of you has eaten it at my house, and didn't like it.  Hmm.

Well, maybe there's the ODD person that didn't like it, but I can't help that, ha ha!  I love it.  It's my blog.  Here's the recipe!

White Chili

3-4 chicken breasts, cubed
1 medium chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
2 (15 ounce) cans white beans, rinsed and drained (any white or non-brown bean will do)
2 cups chicken broth
2 (4 ounce) cans green chilies, chopped
1 tsp salt, cumin and oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk

Saute chicken, onion and garlic in a little bit of oil until chicken is no longer pink.  Add beans, broth, chilies and seasonings.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in sour cream and milk.  Serves 6.

A freshly baked focaccia break goes nicely with this meal.  Don't leave out the cumin!  Makes the dish.

This will be Tuesday's meal at our house.  If you want a sample, ring the bell!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

China, Crystal, and the Company...Of My Thoughts

Spent the last hour or more washing out the china cabinet and most of the contents.  I told you that washing dishes is therapeutic and the place of much thinking!  And, I have been thinking about many things.

The gorgeous china platter was a wedding gift from friends; he is from Hungary, and they brought the platter back from their European trip shortly before our wedding.  I remember their visit not long before our wedding, where they brought over the gift, correctly assuming that, with its' fine bone china content, the platter would best be given in person to avoid accidents and so that they could explain the story behind this beautiful piece.  We don't use it often, but when I do, it's with recognition of the fineness of the dish.

Oh, what's this?  A little (and I mean little) silver platter - a gift from a Bible School friend at our graduation.  Comes from her home town in Manitoba (Neepawa).  A symbol of friendship developed while we did our gratis duty of "tables and trays" and became friends while we washed and dried and straightened.  I use this platter to serve dainties, small pieces of Christmas goodies.  Too bad my boys don't understand "small dainties".  Their idea of a treat is a half pan of puffed wheat cake in one sitting.  ;)

Hmm, countless crystal serving pieces, all wedding gifts.  We treasure them all and use almost all of them.  I remember opening the box of one gift and finding a crystal bowl, very similar to the bowl that I watched, in horror, sell at my parents' garage sale.  "Mom, you CAN'T sell that bowl!"  Too late.  The buyer wouldn't sell it back to me, even though she knew I was sad to see it go.  My mom wisely told me that I was getting married shortly and that I'd get my own treasures, and told me to let it go.  Nine or so months later, I did get my own, practically identical, crystal bowl and the hidden surprise was a hand embroidered tablecloth from my favorite aunt tucked underneath.  She passed away shortly after Ben was born.  Treasures.

Mostly what's coursing through my brain is the amount of times we have sat at our dining room table with a table full of company, using all our china, silver and crystal, set with nice tablecloths with matching napkins.  Our tastes have changed over the years and I even had to throw a tablecloth away the other day, due to a huge "can't cover it with a placemat any longer" stain!  Food is for sharing, china is for using, tablecloths are to be enjoyed.  But I digress.  My thoughts have turned largely to Dynna birthday gatherings.  Dean's family enjoys celebrating birthdays and we have hosted many birthday parties.  First came the adult celebrations where we managed to fit around the table.  Then the children started to be born and a high chair would be placed in the corner.  Then more children arrived; high chairs, booster seats, and plastic cups started to appear at the table, along with bibs and paper napkins.  Twelve of us regularly sat around the table, occasionally 13.  More children encouraged the older children to sit like grown ups, but we spared them the stress of having to use crystal.  A few kids may have banged on the china plates, thinking they were Corelle, but nothing was the worse for wear.  One table became two tables pushed together.  Serving tables were squeezed into every available spot so that the (china and crystal) serving dishes could be circulated around the small table then set aside.  The older kids grew older, and were allowed china and crystal settings.....

And then, kind of one by one, kind of "all of a sudden" it all changed.  Granny left us.  And we carried on.  Then Grandpa left us. Vanders moved away....and here we are, celebrating birthdays with 6 of us.  Two grandparents, two parents, two kids.  Sigh.  It HAS changed.  Oh, we still use the china and crystal but, shhh, sometimes we just go out instead of cook!  I don't regret where we are now; it's all good.  It's just different.  And washing all that crystal and china just brought a rush of memories of where we've been.

I think that there is something here still important to Dean and I, and that is to live with purpose, or live purposefully.  We WANT company at our table.  We WANT people to tell us that they felt special when they came here with the table set with special things.  We WANT the joy of hosting special events here, where our table and food is given as a gift, an extension of who we are, given to you.  And we also know that beautiful tables don't make or break friendships either.  This stage of our life, quite frankly, more embraces the Jr. Youth nights of 12 year olds drinking koolaid out of a styrofoam cup and eating chips off a napkin!  And I love that too!

So, no recipe in this post.  Maybe later!  It's been good to think about some happy memories!  Happy hosting!  Wipe the dust off of some of those treasures you have and enjoy!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Spicy Shrimp Po' Boys

I will be the first to admit that repetitious meals don't cut it for me.  I have occasionally started to keep a data base of all of the meals that we enjoy eating, according to beef/pork/chicken, so that I can regularly circulate the recipes that we use for suppers.  The list is long and seldom gets referred to because there are just SO many more food ideas that I want to try.  And, sigh, there are also everyone's favorite meals, and comfort foods, and "cook in a hurry" or on a budget, and yada yada yada.  So, supper can't always be exciting, but sometimes a new meal idea/change is as good as taking a holiday for me.  Aren't I a cheap date?!!

Last week when we were all home on winter break, I did try something new and everyone ate it!  We have watched a lot of Food Network shows and I had always heard of Po' Boy sandwiches, a meal from the Deep Southern States.  I tried a lobster one at Amy's awhile back and thought that it wasn't actually all that exotic which started the wheels turning.  When I saw a recipe for a Shrimp variation, it looked like something we could do and all enjoy as we all love shrimp.

Shrimp Po' Boys

Remoulade Sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp grainy mustard
1 tbsp pickle juice
dash cayenne pepper
dash tabasco sauce

500 grams shrimp *
Cajun seasoning blend

soft sausage buns
sliced tomatoes
lettuce

This recipe is adapted from Annie's Eats

The recipe initially called for a couple more things in the remoulade, but I was trying to cook family friendly, so avoided the fresh garlic and horseradish, although they would be great additions.

I sauted the shrimp in olive oil, sprinkling with enough Cajun seasoning to color the shrimp.  Again, if it were just Dean and I eating the shrimp, I would have been quite a bit more generous with the Cajun seasoning.

*The shrimp I used this time were simply small shrimp from Superstore's shrimp rings, after pulling the tails off.  I have to say that this was a FAIL in regards to shrimp!  To make the shrimp participating characters in this sandwich, you need a big shrimp.  These cooked up too small and we used 2 rings of shrimp and were still not quite satisfied with having got enough shrimp per bun.  Next time I will splurge on a larger count of shrimp and I think we'll all be happy.

Mayo, lettuce and tomatoes on each bun; enough shrimp per person on top of that, and you have delved into a Deep Southern dish very simply.  I would recommend a nice soft bun in whatever shape/size you choose; complements the texture of the dish.

This is definitely a "Make Again" recipe, maybe even this summer at the lake?  Simple and satisfying!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

The winter has been long and I was eager for an old soup favorite that I hadn't made for a long time.  The soup brought back a lot of memories of a certain chapter in my life, not quite forgotten, but it seems like a life time ago.

I remember many delightful lunch visits with a friend.  She was on the Board of Directors of the agency that I worked for and would regularly invite me over for lunch to discuss "business", and personal discussions wound up present at the table as well.  She was a high society (truly) classy lady; I was a young girl in my 20's.  In spite of our many differences, we shared a lot of stories about our lives during those lunches.  She prayed for me and I prayed for her. 

Everything you ate at her home was made extra special by her careful preparation and (always) incredible presentation/table setting.  A favorite was her tuna salad on a toasted bagel; still wonder what that secret ingredient was, but I'm suspicious that it was pecans and I KNOW it was also dill.  Yum. 

Somewhere in my house is her exact recipe for this soup.  I don't know where that is (!) but Google was kind enough to fill in the details.

BROCCOLI CHEESE SOUP

Ingredients

1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 small carrot, chopped finely
Splash of
olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons
flour
2 cups milk, room temperature
1/2 pound chopped frozen or fresh
broccoli
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 pound of
cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and
pepper to taste

Preparation

1. Heat olive oil in soup pot on medium low heat.
2. Add onion, carrot, and salt. Saute until onions and carrots are soft.
3. In separate pot, melt butter on medium low heat.
4. Add flour to melted butter a bit at a time. Mix well to prevent lumps.
5. Cook flour and butter mixture for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
6. Slowly add milk to flour and butter, mixing thoroughly as you go to remove lumps.
7. When all the milk is added, return it to the heat, and gently warm it up.
8. When the milk, butter and flour mixture (white sauce) is hot, begin to add the cheese a bit at a time. Allow it to melt in before adding more.
9. When onions and carrots are done cooking, add chicken stock and broccoli. Turn up heat to medium-high.
10. Slowly add the cheese sauce to the soup, mixing thoroughly as you do so to avoid lumps.
11. Add pepper, and more salt if necessary.
I added the cheese directly to the broccoli/white sauce mixture and stirred to melt.  Following, I used my immersion blender to puree.  Added a bit more shredded cheese when I served up.
Thanks, Marilyn, for the soup!  Thanks, more, for the memories and friendship!

My Plan!

I believe in giving credit where credit is due.  I am not a recipe creator.  I do not come up with new ideas on my own. But I love to cook and I love to surf the internet, which is resulting in some great new menu and baking ideas.  So, this blog is all about sharing what I’ve found to be recipes good enough to Make Again.  I will share my resources with you.  Once in a blue moon, there may be an original recipe, or at least an original take on an established recipe, but mostly I have many influences to thank for a growing collection of fabulous recipes.