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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Product Review: Iron Chef™ America Sesame Beef

Saw this in the frozen foods section of my local grocery last week, and since I was looking for something quick to make for dinner, I thought I’d try it. The box contains all the ingredients for a complete main course—a package of frozen sliced beef, a package of frozen veggies, a package of sauce, and a package of frozen rice. No need to thaw before cooking. The rice is heated in the microwave, the rest of the ingredients are cooked together in a skillet.

I’d definitely buy it again and will be trying some of their other flavours as well. While it was rather expensive compared to most frozen meals, it would have cost me at least half as much to make it, plus all the time for prep work.

A few comments, though. First, since the frozen veggies were 90% peppers, which not everyone in our household likes, I subbed in corn and peas (I kept the veggie pack for future use). Second, while the box says it feeds four, it fed two, with enough left over for my lunch the following day. If you added in soup or salad and egg rolls, you might feed four, though.

It took us closer to 20 minutes than the 12 minutes stated on the box to make it, but that’s still pretty quick for getting dinner on the table. Also, while it’s rated medium/two peppers for spicy, we thought it was fairly mild. Your taste may differ.

A few other things I liked about it—it’s made right here in Canada and contains Canadian beef. It’s reasonably low in sodium, especially for processed food—around 15% of your daily recommendation per serving. Also, all of the packaging is recyclable.

The product is put out by Allez Cuisine (rough translation, get cooking), of Vaudreuil, Quebec. You can find their website HERE.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Citrus Cream Pudding

Here’s another recipe from The Whitehouse Cookbook by F. L. Gillette and Hugo Ziemann (1887). It’s called “solid cream” in the cookbook, but I think my title’s more descriptive. I’ve cut the recipe in half because it still makes lots.

2 tablespoons white sugar
Juice and zest of half a lemon or one whole lime
1 tablespoon brandy
2 cups whipping cream

Place sugar in a large bowl. Add citrus juice and zest and brandy, then stir in cream. Beat with a mixer until thick. It won’t really get stiff and glossy as it doesn’t have enough sugar (or any egg whites), but will stay thick in the fridge for several days. Serve in small dishes.

Makes 6-8 servings if you’re using it as a pudding. It also makes a nice filling for layer cakes, and would be good with fresh fruit or dolloped on mincemeat pie as well. Despite the cream, it doesn’t taste that rich, and has just a touch of tartness.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Old-Fashioned Sauce for Meat

I’m currently reading through an 1887 cookbook (The Whitehouse Cookbook by F. L. Gillette and Hugo Ziemann) that I found on Project Gutenberg, and there are actually quite a few recipes I mean to check out in it. This one was called “Sharp Brown Sauce.” Thinking that it might be something like HP Sauce, I gave it a try. It’s actually nothing like steak sauce, nor is it brown, but it is delicious. A bit like Catalina salad dressing, but not as acidic. I’ve served it with fried steak, pork chops, and over baked potato, and would definitely make it again.

1/4 pound butter
1 tablespoon flour*
1 tablespoon chopped onion (I left this out)
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 ounces water
3 tablespoons ketchup
pepper and salt to taste

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter. If you want the onions in, add them at this point and cook until soft. Stir in flour until blended, then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Let boil until it thickens. Serve warm. Can be reheated.

Makes just under two cups

*I like Robin Hood’s Blending Flour for this—no risk of lumps

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Donut Bacon French Toast ‘Wich

Ingredients for Donut Bacon French Toast 'Wich
Photo by Kate Tompkins
Ever since I bought my breakfast sandwich maker, I’ve been plotting how to make a sandwich involving donuts and bacon. When I found Egg Creations maple French toast blend liquid eggs in the dairy section of my grocery store, I knew exactly how to do it. This recipe is definitely for those with a sweet tooth

1 glazed donut, sliced in half*
2 slices of cooked bacon, cut in half
1/4 cup Egg Creations maple French toast blend liquid eggs

Preheat sandwich maker. Place bottom half of donut in bottom and cover with bacon. Pull down the top half and pour the egg mixture into it. Cook for three minutes. Add the top half of the donut. Cook for another 100 seconds. When you remove the sandwich, place it on the plate upside down, as otherwise the hot sugar on the bottom half will glue it to the plate. You will want a fork to eat it as it's too hot and sticky to pick up.

Donut Bacon French Toast 'Wich
Photo by Kate Tompkins
I’m not pretending this is healthy, but it’s not as caloric as you might think. Each one has only 270 calories (obviously that would differ with a larger donut).

*This works much better if it’s frozen first. Keep it frozen until you’re ready to make the breakfast sandwich.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Product Review: Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker

Saw a video for this several months ago when I was shopping for something else online, and just had to have it. We’ve used it pretty much every weekend since. Yes, it does work, and I think it’s definitely worth the money. It’s also easy to clean up and so far the non-stick coating is holding out very nicely. I find ham slices for submarine sandwiches fit, and my grocery store also sells already cooked sausage rounds and bacon, which also work well.

The company website is HERE if you’d like more information. They also have some recipes HERE. Warm chocolate croissant? I’m gonna have to try that.

I do have a couple of notes based on our experience. First, the instructions tell you to put the top half of your bagel, muffin, or whatever you’re using for bread directly on top of the egg. Don’t, unless you want the egg to vanish into the recesses of the muffin. I usually let the egg cook for three minutes, then open the top, add pepper, and the top of the muffin/bagel...

If you’re using cheese, place it between the bread and the meat, so it’s less likely to stick.

The official instructions also tell you that while fresh egg whites are fine, you shouldn’t use the ones that come in cartons as they may seep over. We do it all the time. As long as you use the amount the carton tells you is equivalent to a whole egg, you should be okay. If there is some seepage (it’s happened once or twice), it’s easy to clean up.

No English muffins on hand? We’ve also used small hamburger buns, or just cut circles to fit out of regular bread. By the time the sandwich is done, the bread is nicely toasted.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Spicy Carrot Soup

1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 50 gram package spice paste for Indian Butter Chicken*
8 cups coined carrots
8 cups chicken or vegetable bouillon
2 cups cooked lentils
cayenne pepper

In frying pan, cook onions in vegetable oil until soft. Stir in curry paste. Transfer to slow cooker and add carrots and bouillon. Cook on high several hours until carrots are cooked through. Cool. Puree. Add lentils. Reheat, and sprinkle a bit of cayenne over each serving.

*If you like it hotter, trade up to a spicier curry paste, perhaps Madras or Vindaloo

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Curried Carrot Soup

As I do most years, I recently bought 10 pound bags of potatoes, carrots, onions and beets at the local market. Here’s one of the recipes I’m making and freezing for later consumption. It has a very mild curry taste, but for those of you who don’t care for curry, you can just leave it out, and sprinkle each serving with black pepper and a bit of celery salt instead.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup chopped onion
8 cups coined carrots
8 cups beef bouillon*

In a frying pan over medium heat stir together oil and curry powder. Add onions and cook until they start to soften. Transfer contents to a large crock pot (you can do it in a large pot on the stove, but you’ll have to stir periodically). Add carrots and bouillon. Start with crock pot on high, but turn it down once it’s simmering well. Cook until carrots are soft (will take several hours). Cool.

Once the soup is cool, purée it. It can be served hot or cold. A dollop of yoghurt or sour cream in each bowl is a nice addition.

*You can substitute vegetable bouillon if you’re looking for a vegetarian dish. Check the label—many “beef” bouillon mixes actually get their flavour from yeast and have no meat in them.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Pickled Snow Peas with Dill

Came across some fresh dill at the local market so dug out this recipe from my files and made a few jars of pickled snow peas—with the addition of baby carrots sliced in half lengthwise. Pint jars work best for this.

I first tasted these at a gourmet food store. The sample was delicious, but the pickles were over $9 for a small jar. So I took a recipe for regular dill pickles from a government pamphlet on canning (unfortunately I don’t still have it, so I can’t give credit) and adapted it to my needs. This is the result.

8 cups snow peas
3 ounces pickling salt
1 1/2 cups vinegar
4 1/2 cups water
fresh dill

Sterilize jars. Wash and trim snow peas. Mix salt, vinegar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Place a sprig of dill and a split and peeled clove of garlic in the bottom of each jar. Pack with snow peas. Pour the hot brine over the peas to the brim of the jar. Seal the jars. Leave for at least a month before sampling. Refrigerate once opened.

Makes 7-8 pint jars

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Creamy Old-Fashioned Buttermilk (not from scratch)

I enjoy drinking buttermilk, finding its creamy tart flavour refreshing. Until recently that is, when my grocery store stopped carrying anything but a version with 0.25% butterfat. While that might be okay for baking (after all, a cup of ordinary milk with a spoonful of vinegar will work in most recipes calling for buttermilk), it’s thin and watery and not at all satisfactory as a beverage. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution.

1 litre 0.25% buttermilk
250 ml 10% cream

Combine the two in a large pitcher and let sit in the fridge overnight to give the bacterial culture in the buttermilk time to work. The result is thick and creamy, as it should be, while the fat content is just over that of two percent milk.

Monday, August 18, 2014

No Pasta Pasta Dinner

If you’re cutting back on simple carbohydrates in your diet, or avoiding gluten, but are missing some of your favourite dishes, you might try this. I find the texture of the edamame, combined with the spaghetti sauce, satisfies my craving for pasta.

3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup shelled edamame, fresh or frozen
1 cup carrots, sliced into coins
2 cups sliced mushroom (optional)
2 cooked sausages (I like Italian), sliced
1 cup spaghetti sauce

In a large frying pan, combine water, oil, vegetables and mushrooms. Stir over high heat until they come to a boil. Cover, and turn down to low. Cook for 30 minutes. Remove lid, turn heat back up to medium, stir in sausage and spaghetti sauce, and continue to stir until warmed through.

Serves 2

Friday, August 8, 2014

Easy Borscht

I love the earthy taste of beets, and this recipe for borscht is one more reason to cook and freeze them in large quantities when they’re available (see recipe here). The recipe takes a while to make, though some of that is waiting time, but is quite simple.

2 cups beef stock
2 cups diced cooked beets
sour cream to taste
black pepper to taste

Combine stock and beets in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, continuing to stir. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cooled, blend the beets and stock to desired consistency (anywhere from slightly chunky to pureed). An immersion blender works well for this, but you might want to cover your clothes with an apron first as beet juice tends to stain—speaking from experience here.

Reheat to serve, adding a dollop of sour cream to each bowl. Sprinkle with pepper. The soup is also good cold. I’m thinking a slice of lime floating on top would look sensational.

Serves 4

Friday, July 25, 2014

Boiled Salad Dressing

I seem to be on a condiment kick at the moment. Having failed miserably at my past attempts to make mayonnaise, when I found a salad dressing recipe in an old cookbook that didn’t involve tedious dripping of oil and holding your mouth just right, I figured I’d give it a try.

1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
butter size of a walnut (I used a tablespoon of olive oil)
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon mustard
1 teaspoon salt (I left it out)
1 egg
1/2 cup milk

Put vinegar, water and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in a small bowl or cup, mix together sugar, flour, mustard and salt. Beat egg and milk together. Stir sugar mixture into egg mixture, then add slowly to vinegar mixture once it has come to a boil, stirring continuously. Continue to stir at a boil (lowering heat as necessary) until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and stir occasionally until steam stops rising. Pour into canning jar and refrigerate.

Makes about 2 cups.

The recipe does work, and did come out the consistency and texture of mayonnaise. It tastes a bit sharper and less creamy than I’d like and I’ll be posting another version once I’ve had a chance to tweak it—I have some modifications in mind.

The original recipe can be found in Things Mother Used to Make by Lydia Maria Gurney (New York, 1914), which is available on Project Gutenberg.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Product Review: Sunbites Pre-Cooked Corn on the Cob

Thought I’d add the occasional product review into the recipe blog, so I could share the good things I find in the grocery store and elsewhere. I’m not being asked to do these reviews, paid to do these reviews, or receiving free samples in exchange for reviews (I wish!), but if that ever does happen, I’ll say so out front. The photo for this review did come off the company’s website.

Photo courtesy Lassonde Industries inc.
Sunbites corn on the cob is a fairly new Canadian product, just launched last November. Not only is it processed in Canada, but they claim to be using locally grown corn, packed the day it’s picked. I like to buy local when I can, so for me this is a plus.

I saw Sunbites a few months ago in the produce section at my local Metro store and thought I’d give it a try. We both liked it and I’ve since bought it again.

A package contains two pre-cooked corn cobs (individually vacuum sealed) which just need to be heated in the microwave. They can also be boiled or done on the barbeque although I haven’t tried either of those methods. And yes, it does taste like fresh picked and cooked corn, especially if you add butter and salt. The texture’s right, too.

According to the company’s FAQ, Sunbites will be in stores year-round except in the summer, when fresh corn is readily available. It’s supposed to stay fresh for up to a year, as long as it’s kept refrigerated (look for a best before date on the bottom left of the back of the package) thanks to the vacuum sealing (no preservatives are used), so if you get a craving for fresh corn in November, you can have some.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Nearly Instant Iced Cappuccino

No, it doesn’t have the perfect texture of the ones at the fast food restaurants, but you can make it in under five minutes without leaving the house.

1 tablespoon instant coffee granules (flavoured ones are nice, but regular is fine, too)
sugar to taste
1 ounce hot water
6 ice cubes
shot of canned whipped cream (optional)
6 ounces milk

Dissolve the coffee (and sugar, if you like it) in the hot water. Add to blender container along with the ice cubes and blend until ice is crushed. Pour in milk and give it one more quick zap. Serve in a glass with a straw and garnish with whipped cream if desired.

If you want a mocha flavour, you can either add a tablespoon of chocolate syrup (for making chocolate milk) to the coffee/hot water mix or add a shot of crème de cacao to the finished product.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Potato Nachos

Photo by Kate Tompkins
Had these at the Olde Dublin Pub in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, recently and knew I had to recreate them. That’s their version in the photo, and yes they were as good as they look. So if you want to make up your own plate, here’s what you need:

1 slice bacon, cooked and cut into small pieces
1 small bag thick-cut potato chips*
1 green onion, sliced
1/4 cup diced tomato
1/3 cup grated cheddar (mild or medium)
salsa (to taste)

Spread enough chips to cover on a Royal Chinet dinner plate. Cover with the cheese. Microwave until cheese melts—this takes less than a minute even in my old and low-powered microwave so watch carefully. Sprinkle bacon bits, tomato and onion over top. Add as little or as much salsa as you like. You can also serve with sour cream on the side.

Serves one

This recipe can be multiplied—buy a bigger bag of chips. If you’re feeding more than one and don’t mind sharing a dish, then it’s quicker and easier to do in the oven. Instead of a paper plate, use a pizza pan, covered with foil and greased. Preheat oven to 300°F, then pop in pan. Should take three or four minutes to melt the cheese.

*pretty sure the restaurant made their own potato chips on the premises. Seems to be a PEI specialty. But I don’t own a deep fryer and that’s far too much work.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Homemade Ketchup

Definitely not quick, but it is easy.

3 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced (2 to 2 1/4 cups)
1 small hot pepper, diced, seeds removed (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 ounces white vinegar
1 ounce balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon roasted garlic
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon flour

Place tomatoes, pepper and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the skin comes off the tomato pieces and rolls up into tubes (at least 30 minutes). Remove from heat and cool.

Put contents through a sieve, using a spoon to force through the pulp, and discarding skins and seeds. Return to saucepan. Add the rest of the ingredients, except flour. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Gradually stir in the flour, as if you were making gravy. Continue to cook until mixture thickens somewhat (at least 15 minutes). Turn off heat but leave saucepan on stove and continue stirring until mixture stops steaming. Cool and refrigerate.

Makes 1 cup

If your tomatoes are only producing a few at a time, this is a good way to use them up.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Oatmeal Bread

Oatmeal Bread
Photo by Kate Tompkins
2 cups quick (not instant) rolled oats
3 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
6 1/2 cups flour (approximate)

Combine oats, water, molasses and salt in a large bowl and let cool. Sprinkle yeast over top and stir, then start adding the flour gradually, until it forms a stiff dough. You can begin by stirring but you will have to knead the dough to get the last few cups in. Let it rise until double, punch down and divide into two loaves. Place in pans and let rise again. Bake in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes or until bottom of loaf sounds hollow when knocked. It will look brown from the beginning, thanks to the molasses, so don’t rely on that to tell when it is cooked.

Based on a recipe from Things Mother Used to Make by Lydia Maria Gurney, New York, 1914, which you can find on Project Gutenberg. My version has been modernized.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Homemade Butterbeer

Homemade Butterbeer
Photo by Kate Tompkins
15 ounces Sprite
1/4 cup whipping cream
4 pumps (one ounce) Torani Butter Rum Syrup (no substitutions), divided
2 Butterbeer souvenir mugs or any glass that will hold at least 8 ounces

In blender (Magic Bullet is great for this), combine whipping cream and 1/2 ounce (two pumps) of Torani syrup. Pulse until cream is whipped, about 30 seconds. Put one pump of syrup into each glass. Fill up with Sprite and top with whipped cream. If you prefer the whipped cream spread through the mixture, place it in the bottom before adding the syrup.

Serves 2

We did the Warner Brothers London Making of Harry Potter studio tour last year and of course had to sample the butterbeer. So when I ended up back home with two souvenir mugs, naturally I wanted to be able to refill them. I tried several of the online recipes, but none of them seemed quite right or were too complicated. This one is dead easy, and if you use whipping cream from a spray can (in which case, just pour the syrup over it) it’s even easier.

This doesn’t look like the official Butterbeer we had at Warner Brothers in London, as it’s clear rather than amber, but the taste is a pretty good approximation. Some of the online recipes call for cream soda, but it seemed to me there was a lemony undertaste, so I like the Sprite in it.

Torani syrups can be found online if no one sells them in your area. I get mine through Buy Coffee Canada.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lazy Woman’s “Grilled” Cheese Sandwich

block of cheddar or mozzarella cheese

For each sandwich, toast two slices of bread. Cut enough slices of cheese off the block to cover one slice. Add the second slice and microwave until the cheese starts to melt. That’s 40 seconds in my ancient microwave but will probably be less in a newer, more high-powered model.

If you’re watching fat, calories, or cholesterol, you can use a low fat cheddar such as Allegra (it has 4% milk fat) in this, and it will taste just fine. Because the bread isn’t buttered, it’s already lower in calories than a standard grilled cheese.

Serve with ketchup and a dill pickle slice. Or you can add a tablespoon of salsa on top of the cheese before you microwave the sandwich.

With the exception of slicing the cheese, this can very easily be made by kids. Or buy a bag of shredded cheese for them to use, and there’ll be no worry about knives.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cream of Mushroom Soup

2 227 gram (about a pound) packages white mushrooms
1/3 cup butter
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon roasted garlic (optional)
2 cups brown gravy (I use a powdered mix)
2 cups milk or light cream

Wash and slice mushrooms. In a pot that will hold at least 8 cups, melt butter over low heat, and add Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar and garlic. Turn heat up to medium and add the mushrooms. Cook down until tender, stirring occasionally (could take 20-30 minutes). Stir in gravy.

Remove pot from heat and allow to cool. Blend the contents—an immersion or stick blender is best for this as you can do it right in the pot. Add milk. Reheat to serve. It will look quite a bit darker than canned mushroom soup, and has much more mushroom in it. You can serve it over toast if you like.

Makes six or so cups.

While this recipe is a little time-consuming, it’s very easy and quite tasty. Depending on your gravy mix, it could even be vegetarian—many rely on yeast for flavouring and don’t actually contain meat.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken

3 cups chicken stock
4 cups peeled, cubed potatoes
4 cups carrot chunks
4 cups winter squash (acorn, pepper, butternut)
    peeled, seeded and cubed
2 1/2 to 3 pound chicken
2 lemons, sliced

Grease a six quart crockpot. Pour in stock and vegetables, and place chicken on top. Cook on high for two hours. Turn chicken over and cover with lemon slices. Cook on high for another two hours. Switch to low for one more hour. Remove and slice chicken. Serve with drained vegetables (save the liquid for future use).

Will serve 4 to 6, but if you’re feeding fewer people, the leftovers can be used to make soup the next day. The squash really picks up the lemon flavour.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Butterscotch Pecan Squares

1/2 cup margarine, melted
1 15 ounce (432 grams) butter pecan cake mix
1 cup pecan pieces
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9 x 9 inch square pan.

In large microwaveable bowl, melt margarine. Stir in cake mix and nuts. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Spoon into pan.

Bake for 30 minutes.

One of my cousins had posted a link to a recipe for making cookies from cake mix. I tried it and it worked, but since it wasn’t my recipe and was already all over the internet (google “cake mix cookies” if you want to try it) there didn’t seem much point reposting it here. So I experimented a little and came up with this recipe for squares instead. You can make them as drop cookies if you prefer (you’ll have to adjust the cooking time down dramatically) but squares are much less work.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Emergency Chocolate

1 tablespoon cocoa
1/2 tablespoon white sugar
4 tablespoons butter

Combine cocoa and sugar until thoroughly mixed. Melt butter. Stir in cocoa sugar mixture. Pour onto foil or waxed paper and freeze until set.

Makes one or two doses.

For those occasions when you really need a piece of dark chocolate, but there’s none in the house and the weather’s too nasty to go out in. Works even better if you can substitute coconut oil for the butter.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

DIY Cat Toys: Refurbished Feather Wand

Materials for feather wand
Photo by Kate Tompkins
5 or 6 feathers
Flexible stick, 2 feet or so in length
Duct tape

Cut off a strip of duct tape four or five inches in length. Lay the bottoms of the feathers side by side at one end. Wrap feathers and tape around end of stick. Squash tape together at non-feather end for close fit.

It works better if one of the feathers is stiff—a crow feather, for example—so it makes an intriguing rustling noise when you rub it across the floor.

Attach feathers to tape
Photo by Kate Tompkins
 I was in a pet store once looking for more of those sparkly balls my cat loves to lose under the furniture when I saw the most amazing feather wand. It had two black, iridescent feathers and two long thin strips of feather boa in bright colours attached to it. What cat could resist?

Mine, apparently. While she loved the rustling noise the black feathers made if I rubbed the wand across the floor or walls or under furniture, the dangly bits didn’t interest her at all. So when one of the feathers broke and I decided to repair it, I threw out the dangly bits and used more feathers instead. She loves the new version, though I have to repair it every other week or so as the feathers get broken in play.

The finished product
Photo by Kate Tompkins
You should be able to find feathers and duct tape at your local dollar store. As for the stick, if you don’t have an existing feather wand to repair you can use an actual stick, though you want one that’s somewhat springy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sweet Mustard

8 tablespoons ground mustard
1 tablespoon Club House barbecue chicken seasoning (optional)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons vinegar

Combine dry ingredients in saucepan and stir. Add water and vinegar. Place on stove at medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer five minutes, turning heat down if necessary. Pour into sterilized one cup canning jar. Let cool and refrigerate.

You can add a couple of tablespoons of mustard seed before cooking if you like the look and texture.

Friday, April 18, 2014

My Goodness My Guinness Beer Bread

My Goodness My Guiness Beer Bread
Photo by Kate Tompkins
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup chopped dates
3/4 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
1 440 ml (14 ounce) can Guinness

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Add the beer and stir until mixed. It will be tough going towards the end. Spoon into large greased loaf pan and press down to make sure all the corners are filled—you might want to grease your hands first so the dough doesn’t stick.

Bake for 50 minutes or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when you knock on it. Remove from pan immediately and let cool.

If you prefer a less rustic-looking loaf, you can knead the dough before putting it into the pan.

If you prefer a softer crust, brush melted butter over the top once the bread has been removed from the oven.

Serving suggestion: Slather with cream cheese, or serve with soup or as part of a ploughman's lunch.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gumdrop Loaf

Gumdrop Loaf
Photo by Kate Tompkins
2 ½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cups milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup baking gums*

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and baking powder. Add vegetable oil and milk. Break egg into a small cup and beat with a fork, just until yolk and white are combined. Add to the bowl, along with the vanilla. Stir until batter is smooth. Add baking gums and stir again until they’re evenly distributed.

Pour batter into a large greased loaf pan. Bake in the centre of the oven until a cake tester comes out clean (about an hour). Let cool, then slice and serve.
Gumdrop Loaf
Photo by Kate Tompkins

*These are not the same as the gumdrops you eat. They’re smaller, harder, and generally found in the baking section of the bulk store.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Aloha Granola Bars

Aloha Granola Bar
Photo by Kate Tompkins
1/3 cup margarine
1/3 cup peanut butter
4 cups miniature marshmallows
3 cups Aloha Granola

Thoroughly grease an 8 x 8 inch square pan. In a medium to large pot, on low, melt margarine. Stir in peanut butter. Add marshmallows and continue to stir until melted. Remove from heat and stir in the granola. Press into pan and let cool. Cut into squares or bars, as you prefer.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Aloha Granola

Aloha Granola
Photo by Kate Tompkins
7 cups quick (not instant) oatmeal
1 cup white sesame seeds
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/3 cup honey
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup dried pineapple tidbits
1 cup diced coconut

Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl. Spread out on a large cookie sheet and place in oven. Turn oven to 225°F. Leave oatmeal mixture in oven for two hours, then turn oven off and leave for one more hour.
Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl.
Photo by Kate Tompkins

Return oatmeal mixture to bowl and stir in remaining ingredients. Place in a storage container.

Makes 11 cups

Note: You can substitute any vegetable oil for the coconut oil. If you have an allergy to nuts, you can substitute another cup of oatmeal for the sesame seeds. Otherwise, they not only give good flavour, they’re a good source of several vitamins and minerals and add protein.

This recipe can easily be made by any child old enough to turn the oven on and off. The pan may still be warm when removed, so oven mitts should be used.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Beets Dressed with Butter and Vinegar

Beets Dressed with Butter and Vinegar
Photo by Kate Tompkins
1 ½ cups diced cooked beets (see below)
1 heaping tablespoon butter (margarine’s fine)
2 tablespoons white vinegar

Melt the butter in a saucepan on low. Add the vinegar and beets and turn the heat up to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

Serves three to four.

Cooked Beets

Cooking beets is messy and time-consuming. That’s why I like to buy a 10 pound bag when they go on sale in the fall and prepare them all at once. They freeze beautifully and I pull out what I need when I want to make the recipe above or perhaps some borscht.

10 pound bag of beets

Cut the leaves and stems, if any, off the beets. If the leaves are nice and fresh, they can be cooked like spinach. Otherwise compost them. Place the beets, dirt, roots and all, in a large pot and cover with water. Boil for an hour or until you can easily stick a fork into them, stirring occasionally. Drain and let cool.

Once they’re cool enough to handle, cut off the tops and bottoms and remove their jackets. You should be able to remove most of the skin with your fingers, but use a paring knife where needed. Cut into dice and put in small freezer bags to freeze.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Slow Cooker Lentil Soup

Ingredients for Lentil Soup
Photo by Kate Tompkins
  • 4 tablespoons Cyrches dehydrated chicken bouillon (or as much of your preferred brand as will make up 3 1/2 quarts. I like Cyrches because it’s low sodium)
  • 1 quart boiling water
  • 4 tablespoons Spice-a-Rice pilaf liquid seasoning (or just substitute 2 more tablespoons bouillon and 2 tablespoons curry powder)
  • 2 1/2 quarts water
  • 3 cups split red lentils (add 1/2 cup if you prefer a thick soup)
  • 4 cups frozen vegetables for spaghetti sauce
  • 1/2 pound ham steak, diced (optional)

Place dehydrated chicken bouillon in bottom of 6 quart crock pot. Add boiling water and stir. Add Spice-a-Rice seasoning and stir. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir once more. Cook for at least 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

Makes 5-6 quarts.
Slow Cooker Lentil Soup
Photo by Kate Tompkins

Tastes even better the second day. My husband likes to add hot sauce to his. Freezes well. If you leave out the ham, this dish is vegetarian, as neither the chicken bouillon or the Spice-a-Rice actually contain animal products.

The inspiration for this recipe came from an 1884 cookbook I found on Project Gutenberg, called Fifty Soups, by Thomas J. Murrey. I give it here, in case you want to make it the old-fashioned way.

“Lentil Soup.—Lentils are very nutritious, and form the basis of a most excellent soup; but they are little used in American cookery. Soak a pint of dry lentils for two hours; put them in a saucepan; add two quarts of cold water, half an onion, two or three celery tops, salt, whole peppers, and two or three ounces of the small end of a ham. Boil gently for three hours; add a little more hot water, if the quantity has been reduced by boiling, pour through a sieve, remove the ham, onion and celery; rub the lentils through a sieve, return to the soup; whisk it thoroughly; taste for seasoning, and serve with croutons.”

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Pain au Chocolat

Pain au Chocolat
Photo by Kate Tompkins
1/2 batch sweet dinner roll dough
2 chocolate bars*

Make up 1/2 batch of sweet dinner roll dough, following the directions right up until when you’d put the round balls of dough in the pans. Instead, flatten each one into an oval.

Place chocolate on dough and fold over
Photo by Kate Tompkins
Place one or two (depending on size) squares of chocolate to one-half of the middle. Fold the dough over so chocolate is covered and pinch the edges. Place on a non-stick cookie sheet or a cookie sheet with a silicon liner. Let rise 20 minutes. Turn on oven to 350°F. Once oven reaches temperature, pop your bread in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Makes eight.

These aren’t as flaky as what you’d find in a French bakery, but they’re still good, and you don’t need to be a pastry chef to make them. I’m betting they also contain less fat and sugar than the real thing.

*Your choice. I used Lindt 70% cocoa for mine, but I may try Caramilk the next time.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sweet Dinner Rolls

Sweet Dinner Rolls
Photo by Kate Tompkins
1 ½ cups warm water*
¼ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons instant yeast
¼ cup butter, melted
5 cups or more flour, divided
2 eggs

Pour water into large mixing bowl. Stir in sugar and salt. Sprinkle yeast over top of water and let rest five minutes. Stir in the melted butter and two cups of the flour. Continue stirring until fairly smooth. Beat the eggs with a fork in a cup and add to the flour mixture.

Continue adding the rest of the flour in. When it gets too stiff to stir, knead it in by hand until the dough is no longer sticky. You’ll need to turn it over periodically to make sure the entire surface is floured. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rest until double in ow long that will be will depend on how fresh your yeast is and how warm your kitchen is.

Punch dough down and divide into 12 or 16 pieces. Shape into balls and place in two 8-inch round cake pans. Let rise another 20 minutes, then turn your oven on to 350°F. Once it reaches temperature, put the rolls in and bake for 25 minutes.

Makes 12 large or 16 medium.

These make a good basic dinner roll and brown nicely because of the sugar content. The dough can also be used for other rolls—more recipes to follow. If you’re in a hurry, you can skip the first rising and go directly to the shaping into rolls, but the texture won’t be as nice.

*I just use hot water from the tap. You want it warm enough to get the yeast started, but not hot enough to kill it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

B52 Milkshake

1 ounce Kahlua
1 ounce Baileys
1 ounce Grand Marnier
2 cups vanilla ice cream

Combine first three ingredients in blender. Add ice cream and hit the frappé button. Pour into glasses and serve with straws.

Makes two.

We once ended a multi-day hiking trip at a resort, after several hours spent jogging through woods while fending off mosquitoes. While our room wasn’t ready when we arrived, we were able to shower and change at their fitness centre and then headed to the lounge chairs by the pool. The waiter recommended the B52 milkshakes and he wasn’t wrong. This is my recreation of the recipe.

Looking for more cool summer drinks? Check out my ice cream floats for adults.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Irish Soda Bread

Just 3 ingredients, what could be easier?
Photo by Kate Tompkins
 4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
14 ounces buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425°F. Add all ingredients to a large bowl and combine with a fork. Then grease your hands with butter and knead a few strokes. Press into an 8 inch round cake pan (greased and floured if it isn’t non-stick). Slash the top in the shape of a cross.

Bake for 30 minutes covered (an upside down pie plate works well) and another 15 minutes uncovered. Cut into slices or wedges and serve warm with butter. This bread stales quickly, so should be eaten within 24 hours.

Please don’t substitute reconstituted powdered buttermilk or milk soured with vinegar for the buttermilk. The flavour won’t be right.

Irish Soda Bread
Photo by Kate Tompkins

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Mom’s Meatloaf

What you need
Photo by Kate Tompkins
1 pound lean ground beef
2 hash brown patties, thawed and crumbled
1 10 ounce can vegetable soup
dash Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour a loaf pan. In a bowl, combine all ingredients until mixed well, then spoon into pan and smooth top. Bake for one hour.

Combine ingredients
Photo by Kate Tompkins
Serving suggestion: Place a couple of slices of melted cheese on top once you remove meatloaf from oven and let them melt before serving. You can add 1/2 cup diced onion to the other ingredients before cooking if you like.

With the exception of the hash browns, which are my addition, this is how my mom taught me to cook meatloaf. It takes very little processing time and uses ingredients I generally have on hand.
Mom's Meatloaf, ready to serve
Photo by Kate Tompkins

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Philly Steak Light

Philly Steak Light with a side salad
Photo by Kate Tompkins
4 10-inch baguettes or other rolls
spreadable light cream cheese
HP or other “brown” sauce

Spread cream cheese on bottom of rolls, cover with beef slices. Add brown sauce to taste. Cut rolls in half and serve. These have less fat than the Philly steak sandwiches served in most restaurants but are still delicious.

They’re even more delicious with mushrooms fried in butter on top, but I’m not going to pretend that’s healthy.

Makes 8 but you’ll probably eat 2 apiece—at least we always do!

*If you don’t want to make this, you can substitute fried minute steaks, but that will up the fat content.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Sodium Nitrate-Free Beef for Sandwiches

Sodium Nitrate-Free Beef
Photo by Kate Tompkins
1 350 gm (approximately 12 ounce) package frozen sliced beef for Chinese fondue, thawed

Seasonings to taste (flavoured olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, herbs…)

Heat oven to 250°F. Place a silicon liner on a cookie sheet. Place a single layer of beef slices on top of the liner and sprinkle seasonings, if desired, over top. Bake for 11 minutes. Cool enough to handle and remove from sheet. Repeat until all the beef has been cooked.

Makes enough for four 10-inch baguettes or other rolls.

No sodium of any kind except what occurs naturally in the beef, so a good choice if you’re watching your salt intake.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Easy Spanish Rice

The ingredients
Photo by Kate Tompkins
1 cup of salsa

Prepare one recipe plain boiled rice. Stir in salsa. That’s it—it’s ready to serve.

Makes four side dish servings, two main dish servings.

Serving suggestions:

- Cook two or three frozen meatballs per person along with the rice to make this a main dish
- Add crumbled feta and bacon bits
Stir in the salsa and you're done
Photo by Kate Tompkins

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Plain Boiled Rice

The ingredients
Photo by Kate Tompkins
1 cup uncooked rice
2 cups water
few drops cooking oil

Combine rice, water and oil in a pot and cook uncovered on high, stirring occasionally, until the water reaches the boiling point. Cover the pot, turn the stove down to low, and continue to cook for another 20 minutes (check your package—some rice takes longer). Remove from heat and let stand for a few minutes before fluffing with a fork.

Makes two servings. Recipe can be multiplied if you need more.

Combine rice, oil and water in a pot
Photo by Kate Tompkins
Flavour suggestions

- Add butter and parsley during the fluffing process
- Cook the rice in chicken or beef stock rather than water
- Add the zest of one lemon and a couple of slices of lemon to the pot while cooking

Why am I posting such a basic recipe? It may not be to some people. I grew up on Minute Rice and it wasn’t until I was in my 20s and someone taught me how to cook “real” rice that I discovered it wasn’t the time-consuming and complicated process I’d always assumed. If you’re only making a couple of servings, it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes and you can be doing something else for most of that time.

Remove lid and fluff
Photo by Kate Tompkins
Something I’ve discovered for myself is that rice freezes very well. If I’m not in a hurry, I make a large pot up (more time consuming because it takes longer for the water to come to a boil) and then once it’s cooled down, I package it in Ziploc bags and store them in the freezer for future use.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Chickpea Salad

All you need to make it.
Photo by Kate Tompkins
1 19 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6-8 ounces of your favourite bottled vinaigrette*

Combine ingredients in a lidded container. Allow to stand in the fridge for several hours before serving.

* The orange sesame vinaigrette works well in this, but you’ll need to double the recipe.

The cafeteria in a building I used to work in made a great chickpea salad. This is my recreation of it.
Chickpea Salad
Photo by Kate Tompkins

Friday, February 21, 2014

Orange Sesame Vinaigrette

Here's everything you need to put this together.
Photo by Kate Tompkins
1 ounce sesame oil
1 ounce balsamic vinegar
2 ounces white vinegar
1 single serving packet Tang Orange crystals

Combine all the ingredients in a jar or bottle and shake. A squeeze bottle like the one in the photo works beautifully for this—found mine at a dollar store. Yes, I know the ratio of oil to vinegar is upside down, but there’s enough sugar to cut the sharpness. If you prefer it a bit more mellow, add another ounce of cooking oil, but don’t use more sesame oil as the flavour will be too strong.

Makes approximately four ounces

I came up with this one day when I discovered I had no dressing in the fridge to go with the salad I had just made, and wanted something a little fancier than a straight oil and vinegar mix.
The finished product.
Photo by Kate Tompkins