Thursday, November 26, 2009

American Thanksgiving

So, way back in October us Canucks celebrated our Thanksgiving. For Hubs and I and our boys, that meant a trip to Saskatchewan to celebrate Hubs' grandmother's 90th birthday. On the way home, Hubs commented that he didn't feel like we really had Thanksgiving (although the spread was fantastic), and he missed my Mum's turkey.

So, being good children, we phoned my parents - who were at the time making their way around Vancouver Island and had already had two turkey dinners- and informed them we missed them and wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving with them and my brother. At a time that was convenient to all. November 22nd to be exact. (Yes, my family generally has to plan 6 weeks in advance.)

Then someone (OK, maybe it was me), said we were actually celebrating American Thanksgiving in honour of my sister-in-law, who live in L.A.

So, I thought I'd share what we ate that day. And, since I've gotten into the habit of taking my camera only into my own kitchen and not other people's, I have absolutely no pictures of any food-type stuff at all. So, you can just imagine it in your head.

I should mention that my Dad made the turkey (on the barbeque!), my Mum made the stuffing, and I made everything else.

Barbequed Turkey
Italian Sausage Stuffing
Potato-Fennel Gratin
Brussel Sprout Leaves with Bacon
Green Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
Thyme Gougeres
Pumpkin Mouse Parfait

Happy Thanksgiving to all the Americans in the crowd!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Baked Chicken Saltimbocca

Wow, that's really kind of a non-descript picture, isn't it?

This is my chicken before I stuck it in the oven. Whoot. I've finally gotten into the habit of keeping my camera in the kitchen, now I need to get in the habit of taking pictures! This is the only picture I have of this dish, which is sooo yummy looking (you'll just have to trust me).  

Baked Chicken Saltimbocca (serves 4-8)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup flour
1-2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs
pinch each of salt and pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1 1/2 - 2 cups pasta sauce (either storebought or homemade marinara style)
8 thin slices proscuitto
8 slices fresh mozzarella
1 lb spaghetti, cooked and drained
Parmesan for grating (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs in three separate shallow bowls or plates. Mix the salt and pepper, oregano and parsley into the breadcrumbs.

Coat the chicken breasts in the flour, dip in the egg, and coat in the breadcrumbs. Place the breasts in a large baking dish and pop in the oven for 25 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the oven, and layer 2 slices of proscuitto over each breast. Pour the pasta sauce over the entire dish, and layer the mozzarella on top. Stick it back in the oven for about 10 minutes, letting the cheese get all gooey and the sauce heat up.

To serve, place a bit of spaghetti on a plate and put a saucy, cheesy chicken breast on top. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan if desired.

How hungry you and your companions are, and how large the chicken breasts are will determine how many servings you get. When I made this the other night, the chicken breasts were huge (we're talking Dolly-huge), and one per person was really too much. Two chicken breasts with some pasta fed a family of four. You could easily cut the breasts in half and double your servings.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lentil & Sausage Soup

Pure comfort food. That's what it is. The recipe I use is from Ian Garten's Barefoot in Paris cookbook, which I love. I've made quite a few things from this book and love how simple everything is. This recipe makes an insane amount of soup. I filled 6 spaghetti sauce jars and a large storage bowl. And it's filling. It doesn't take a lot to satisfy. Hubs has been asking me to make it for a while, so I finally gave in when I saw 4 rings of kielbasa in the freezer.

It's a fairly basic soup recipe with some great flavourings, specifically thyme and cumin. I loooove cumin. And thyme. They really are two of my favourite things to cook with. And garlic. Who can live without garlic? Not this gal!

There's also leeks. I really like leeks too. They're a great, mild flavour base. Milder than onions. I find when I use them with onions, there's another level, subtle, of flavour and aroma. They're also great grilled on the barbeque. However, I had no leeks kickin' around, and didn't feel like running to the store. So, they got left out this time.

I also ran out of chicken stock a while back, haven't made any more, and ran out of bouillon powder halfway through adding it to the pot. Vegetable stock to the rescue! Another great pantry staple I discovered a little while back.

These lentils rock. Little French green lentils, or lentil du puy, look like little dark green lenses. They don't fall apart like the other lentils do, so they're great when you want something to chew. They're great as a side dish, in soups, stews, whatever. They don't thicken, but instead are a constituent themselves.

And the sausage. I use kielbasa. I like this one. I grew up eating it. Some grocery stores around here carry it, or you can order a case. Or, if you're ever driving through Mundare, stop in and purchase some. Just make sure you're heading home soon or your whole car will smell like Ukrainian garlic sausage.

A bit of red wine as a finishing touch and you're good to go! Seriously, how good does that sound? I wish I had taken a picture of it in a bowl, but I ended up jarring it all for the fridge and freezer. When I heat some up for dinner, I'll make sure to take a picture and post it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Healthy Blueberry Muffins

I've been wanting to find a healther way to make muffins lately. White flour, even unbleached, with sugar and some token fruit just doesn't seem to cut it. They are often full of fat, or turn out dry. (Oh my gosh, I just noticed the sad state of that muffin tin!)

Here's what I tried the other day. There's still sugar, but it ends up being less than a tablespoon per muffin. And moist. So good. I'm not a nutritionist, not a dietician. These muffins aren't perfect. But I think they're better than the alternative. (Although Hubs still has a thing for the Tim Horton's Multigrain Blueberry muffins, and I am attempting to duplicate those.)

Blueberry Muffins (makes 12)

2 very ripe bananas
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar + 1 Tbsp
1 1/2 cups 1% buttermilk
1 large egg
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 pint of blueberries

Heat your over to 350 degrees F and line a muffin tin with paper muffin cups.

Peel the bananas and mash in a bowl. Lightly beat the egg.

Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1/2 cup brown sugar and make a well in the centre. Add the buttermilk, egg, oil and bananas. Gently stir until just incorporated, making sure not to overmix. Add the blueberries and stir a couple of times to mix.

Spoon the batter into the cups and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp brown sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for a couple of minutes and remove to a rack to finish cooling.

Enjoy! Mmm, I was just thinking how good raspberries would be in this. Or try a mix.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Apple Pie

For my first ever food blog post, I thought I'd tell you all about the apple pie I made the other night.

One Saturday, Hubs & I had the rare privilege of going grocery shopping together, sans kids. (Pause for a shout out to Baba H. - thank you!) Well, a privilege for me, probably something akin to a metal spike being driven through his temples for Hubs. He doesn't like grocery shopping. Especially with a list.

Wandering through the produce section, checking items off as I toss them in the cart, I came upon the apples. "We need apples," thought I. "The oldest boy can east three a day when he chooses." So, I proceeded to check prices, check locations on stickers, compare colour and size. When I turned around, I spot 3lb bags of Nova Scotia apples - Grayvenstein and Cortland apples - apples we rarely see at our supermarket here in the prairies. Glorious, red and green, glossy apples.

Well, as I commented above, the oldest boy can eat his weight in apples. One bag is simply not enough. I need two bags, one of each of course!

Well, now we had a lot of apples. He won't go through all of these in one week.

Let me back up to say that fall is in full swing, and seems to be making way for winter a bit early this year, and I am in full autumn cooking mode. Which, in our house, means a roasted chicken as many Sunday evenings as I can get. With pan roasted potatoes. And scrummy veggies. So, that was our meal last night. The first roasted chicken of the fall*, with pan roasted baby potatoes and a simple green salad.

So, what better to go with this autumn feast than a homemade apple pie? Seriously, I dare you.

First came the crust, which I made the day before so it could have a good long sleep in the fridge. Easy, peasy: ice-cold butter, flour, sugar, salt, and icy water. No lard, no shortening, neither of which I've kept in my house for years. For me, crust is a bit like golf. It's not always great, but there are those times when it's perfect that keep you coming back for more.

Perfect Pie Crust (machine technique):
1 cup chilled unsalted butter

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar

1/4 - 1/2 cup ice water
  1. Cut the butter into pieces and return to the fridge to keep chilled.
  2. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, and process for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter pieces to the flour mixture, and pulse until the butter is the size of peas, about 10-15 times. Add the ice water through the feed tube while the machine is running, in a slow, steady stream. Add just enough until the dough starts to hold together.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 2 equal pieces, and place on 2 separate sheets of plastic wrap. Flatten and form into disks. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before using. You can also freeze the dough at the point for a couple of months, so you always have some on hand.
The apples, half Grayvenstein, half Cortland (I love apple pies with a mixture, more depth of flavour, don't you think?) I ended up using about 9 apples in all, a couple were really small. Cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, a pinch of salt. Gah, just the smell of the filling alone is heaven on earth. I may do that one day, just make up a bowl of apple pie filling to nosh on.

Classic Apple Pie: (makes 1 ~9" double-crust pie)
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
Perfect Pie Crust (1 recipe)

3 lbs assorted apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4" slices
2 Tbsp lemon juice
~1/4 cup sugar (may need more/less, depending on the sweetness of the apples), plus more for dusting
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch kosher salt
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, beaten

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one disk of the crust dough to a 1/8" thick circle, about 13" diameter. Brush off the excess flour, and transfer to a 9" pie plate. Line the pie plate with the dough, pressing it into the corners, taking care not to stretch the dough. Transfer the pie plate to the fridge to chill.
  3. In a large bowl toss together the apples, lemon juice, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Arrange in the chilled bottom crust and dot with the butter.
  4. Roll out the remaining disk of dough to fit on top.  Brush the rim of the bottom crust with the egg wash. Place the second piece of dough on top, and trim so the 1" overhangs all the way around. Tuck the dough under and crimp edges with your fingers. Transfer the pie to the fridge and chill for about 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the pie from the fridge, brush the top crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Cut 4 vents in the top to allow steam to escape.
  6. Bake until the crust begins to turn light brown, about 25 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake until golden brown and the juices are bubbling, 25-30 minutes. Let stand for minimum half an hour before serving warm or at room temperature.

How perfect is that? And let me tell you, in a moment of uncharacteristic immodesty, I rocked that crust. It was flaky, tender, the best crust I've ever made.

This recipe is a great deep dish pie. The pie dish I use is this IKEA one. I love it's versatility (I think they technically meant it for a serving dish), but mainly I love it because you can fit so much yummy filling inside!

So try, enjoy, let me know how you like it. Try different kinds of apples, add raisins or dried cranberries. Use your dough scraps to decorate the top crust. I'd love to hear what you've done!

* Although I understand, seasonally speaking, that chicken is a spring/summer meat. But who wants to roast a chicken in July?