Sunday, September 11, 2011
The basil is almost waist high in the garden and it's time to harvest it before the frost gets it. I picked about 3 cups of leaves and washed them well...
I peeled a couple of garlic cloves and threw them in the food processor with about a 1/4 tsp of white sea salt and half a cup of toasted almonds. Sometimes I use pine nuts but I'm feeling economical this year. Using the chopping blade, I whirred that around and then added the basil and a Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Pulse again...then add about 1/2 cup of olive oil in a steady stream while the machine runs. Next add about 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and process again. If the pesto is too tight, add a bit more oil. Store in a container in the freezer and you can spoon out what you need during the winter for your recipes. It'll be a fragrant taste of summer during the cold winter months.
I am using up some of the million of cherry tomatoes that my garden has been growing. I'm also enjoying the new crop of shallots and using some of the last of my fresh tarragon...
I was planning on using chicken breasts with skin and bones for this but whoever did the butchering... Well they didn't do a very good job. The bones were sharp and jagged and I decided it would just be better to de-bone the the breasts. The cats were happy because I cooked up the fillets and the trimmings for their dinner. For us, I started out by dredging the breasts in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. I fried them in a little oil, skin side down til crispy.
Then I fried up 2 cloves of chopped garlic and 6 shallots that were peeled and halved.
Once they started to brown a little, I added a half a cup of white wine. I deglazed the pan, scraping up the nice brown bits. Then I stirred in a couple of teaspoons of mustard which bubbled and made a nice sticky sauce.
I added about a cup of water and laid the chicken breasts back on top. I then turned the heat down to simmer and covered it and let it cook for 20 minutes. If these breasts still had the bone in, I would have cooked them about 35 minutes.
Then I cut my cherry tomatoes in half, I used about 20 of them for two of us. The chicken is removed to a platter and covered with foil. The tomatoes are added to the sauce and it is brought to a boil. I then spooned it over the chicken and topped it with torn tarragon leaves. Delish!
I made some peanut butter cookies for the freezer this afternoon. Of course I baked a few for dessert tonight. Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees.
1 cup hard margarine or butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of peanut butter
2 to 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
Start by creaming margarine with the 2 sugars and then the eggs. After that mix in the peanut butter.
Sift the dry ingredients together (although I admit I just toss it all into the Kitchenaid mixer - too lazy to sift!) and add to wet ingredients. You might want to start with 2 cups of flour and then add more if the dough is too soft. You can drop spoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake 12 to 15 minutes. You can also refrigerate the dough until it stiffens a bit and make rolls for the freezer (I did this too). Then you can slice rounds right from the freezer and bake them off whenever you need a treat.
It's nice to have these in the freezer for a quick dessert...
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Yorkshire pudding is one of my family's favourites. I remember as a kid being so happy when Mom made Yorkshire pudding with our weekly roast beef and apple pie Sunday dinners. We really were spoiled - we just didn't know it! Of course, she made them in muffin tins and I have special Yorkshire pudding pans. She always made them at the last minute (for a family of 6 kids no less) while I make them up in advance and warm them up while I'm preparing the gravy. Nevertheless, they still taste like childhood and the leftovers freeze for another day.
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup of all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
I like to use my batter bowl with the spout. Whisk eggs and milk together and slowly add the dry ingredients and whisk to a smooth batter. You can also mix the batter in a blender or food processor. Let it rest for 30 minutes while you are preheating the oven to 450 degrees and warming the pans. It'll make 10 to 12 Yorkshire puddings.
Put a drop of oil into each cup of your pan and using a pastry brush, spread the oil over the bottom and sides of the cups.
When the oven is almost warm enough, put the oiled pans in to heat for about 5 minutes. Take them out when they are smoking hot and pour batter in half way up each cup.
They will hiss and bubble up a bit. Get them in the oven quickly and bake them for 20 minutes without opening the oven door. Then take them out and get them out of the pans and onto their sides on a rack. They will collapse quickly if you leave them in the pan.
Once they are cooled, you can package up any that aren't needed for dinner and freeze them. They will thaw quickly and you can reheat them after the roast is out of the oven and you are making the gravy. Enjoy your dinner!
The fall harvest has started so I've started making and freezing dinners like a squirrel storing nuts. So I've made a big batch of butternut squash and pear soup this afternoon. It's delicious and healthy - a good combination.
1 Tbsp butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 pear, peeled and chopped
6 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Start by peeling and chopping the onion and carrot. Melt the butter in a large pot and cook the onion and carrot until it starts to caramelize. Season with salt and pepper.
Peel and chop the butternut squash and the pear...
Once the carrot and onion have started to brown, pour in the chicken stock. Add the butternut squash, the pear, bay leaves and nutmeg. Simmer until the vegetables are soft, about an hour...
Once the soup is done, let it cool and blend it in batches until smooth and creamy. Adjust seasoning - I usually add some more pepper and then I divide into containers for lunches and dinners.
This soup freezes really well and can be thawed in the fridge or the microwave if you're in a hurry. When serving, it is nice to swirl a little cream in the top or drizzle a little olive oil and top with homemade croutons. It's also nice if you fry up some rings of shallots or fresh sage leaves until they are brown and crispy. I plan on topping mine with some crispy sage leaves and serving with garlic cheese bread for an easy Friday supper. Enjoy!
Monday, September 5, 2011
Tonight's dinner was a frittata. This one of those standby recipes for nights that I don't feel like cooking. I turn the oven onto broil to heat up. If you don't have a broiler, you could bake it at 400 degrees but it will take longer to cook. I use a fry pan (cast iron or metal) that is oven-proof.
I start by cooking a couple of sausages in a little oil. These were from Flannigan's in Lakefield and were flavoured with sun-dried tomatoes. They were excellent. I always use eggs, cheese, cream, potato and onion but the other vegetables and herbs vary depending upon what's in the fridge. Next I peeled and finely cubed a red potato. Once the sausages were browned, I took them out and cut them in chunks while I started to cook the potato. Once the potato started to brown, I added the sausage back in.
Next I chopped up a couple of tablespoons of onion, half a red pepper and 5 mushrooms. Once the potato started to soften, I added the other vegetables in.
While they cooked a little, I broke 6 eggs into a bowl and whisked them with a 1/4 cup of cream, 1/2 cup of cheese and chopped dill and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and pour into the pan. Gently cook until the bottom sets. Then sprinkle another 1/2 cup cheese on top and put it under the broiler. It took about 10 minutes to set and be puffed and browned on top.
I served it with some cherry tomatoes, coleslaw and salmon pasta salad. It was a satisfying, simple supper for my Labour Day. The summer is over and fall starts now with back to school and work...
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Today I made a batch of chili for dinner and for the freezer. I don't really have a recipe for chili but I'll go through the steps so you can follow along. I like to simmer my chili for 2 or 3 hours so start it about 3 hours before you want to eat. Start by browning a couple of pounds of ground beef in a Dutch oven. Use about a tablespoon of oil and season with 1 tsp each of salt and pepper. When the beef is browned, check to see if it needs drained. If you used lean or extra-lean beef, you probably won't need to drain any fat.
Once the beef was browned, I added my chopped vegetables. I chopped one half an onion, one and half peppers, one stalk of celery, and sliced 10 mushrooms. I also added 3 minced cloves of garlic, 1 tsp of dried oregano, 1 tsp of cumin and 2 or 3 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (chopped fairly finely). I like to buy the canned chipotle peppers and then freeze what I don't use. It's easy then to take out as much as you need for each recipe. This is really worth the extra effort as it adds a sensational spicy flavour to your chili.
I also added a large can of red kidney beans (not drained) and a large can of diced tomatoes. I stirred everything together and added a cup of water. I then simmer it for 2 to 3 hours. I spooned double servings into 4 containers for the freezer and froze wedges of cornbread.
Tonight's dinner was served in a rimmed soup bowl with a dollop of sour cream, a couple of Tbsp of grated cheddar and a wedge of warm cornbread. Yum yum!
Well, it may be hot outside today but it's September and my palate turns to an autumn menu. I'm thinking of stews, soups, casseroles and braising meat with root vegetables. Today I'm making chili for the freezer and the best thing to have with chili is warm, homemade cheddar cornbread. I'm going to freeze chunks of cornbread too and will be looking forward to some easy dinners in my future.
1 c all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 c buttermilk
1 cup grated cheddar
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients together. Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk and eggs. When the batter is smooth, add your cup of grated cheese. If you're making chili too, it's a good idea to grate a little extra cheese for the chili.
Take a cast iron frypan and put a pat of butter in it and place it in the oven to heat. When your batter is ready, take the pan out of the oven and with a pastry brush, brush the butter over the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour your batter in - it will start to bubble a little - bake for about 20 minutes. It will be golden and tender. Let it cool a few minutes and then take it out of the pan to finish cooling. Slice into wedges to serve with your bowl of chili. Enjoy!