Monday, September 22, 2014

Lazy Sunday but back to work Monday

I had a lazy weekend of shopping and puttering around the kitchen and garden.  There was one cold baseball game on Friday night, but the rest of the tournament got cancelled due to rain.  So I started checking things off my to-do list, one by one.  I pulled up all the tomato and bean plants in the back forty.  I still have beets, chard & leeks going strong, as well as that little patch of arugula I planted a couple of weeks ago.  My chilis are not even starting to turn red yet, and I'm not sure how much longer I should leave them out.  We got damned close to frost the other night.

I needed to use up that basket of Ontario tomatoes that were waiting in the fridge.  I remembered an "abundance" tomato soup recipe from last year that called for ripe tomatoes, garlic, and basil (still growing in the garden).  Since I can't really make pesto this year, I thought that basil oil was a good alternative!  It's really simple to make...just pick a bunch of basil leaves, bash them up in the pestle & mortar, add EVOO, let sit for a while, then strain into a jam jar.

Tomato soup with basil oil
I wanted to try out a flourless peanut butter cookie recipe that I found online, but imagine my horror when I read the label on my Kraft peanut butter and discovered that the second highest ingredient was corn maltodextrin.  According to Wikipedia, it is used in "light" peanut butter to reduce the fat content but keep the texture.  Wow, corn really is everywhere.  So I put "natural" peanut butter on my shopping list, and managed to pick some up with only one ingredient - peanuts!  Live and learn.

Flourless peanut butter oatmeal cookies

I made up my special batch of GF cookies, using whole rolled oats, an egg, cinnamon, baking soda, brown sugar and some bashed up dairy-free dark chocolate.  Then, I made another batch of cookies using the corny peanut butter and some unsalted butter that I had in the fridge.  These, of course, also contained flour and some unlabelled chocolate chips I found in the cupboard.  Might as well use these things up since the kids have no dietary restrictions.

Last night I made stirfry for everyone, to use up some veggies and some steak I found in the freezer.  I had mine with a nice tuna steak instead.  We all ate GF soba noodles because they're delicious and quick to prepare! 


For lunch today, I have the remains of that quinoa mac 'n cheese, and some edamame I pulled out of the freezer.  Tonight I'm heading out to dinner with friends at a place called Smokin' Joes (BBQ) so I'm not sure what I'll end up eating.

For the rest of the week, I have a few ideas.  I'm just going to play it by ear as to what gets eaten when.  The weather has been so up and down lately!  I don't like cooking in a hot kitchen.  I'd love to fire up the charcoal BBQ one more time this year....

Butternut Squash Laksa
Farm Boy Thai Turkey/Southwest Chicken sausages with baked potatoes
Roast pork with carrots and beets
Pan-fried trout with mashed sweet potato and sauteed chard

Of course, all bets are off if my copy of Jamie's Comfort Food arrives in the mail!  I caught the first episode on Food Network Canada yesterday, and I was excited to see it had added content (based on the version I streamed on Channel 4OD).  There was an extra recipe for Huevos Rancheros included that I can't wait to try!


One year ago, I hosted a ThanksBirthday feast!
Two years ago, I was playing with pesto.
Three years ago, I was making meals out of bits an pieces.
Four years ago, I cooked Nigella's pappardelle with butternut squash and cheese.
Five years ago, I was using up leftovers.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Quinoa Mac 'n "Cheese"

This week, the menu has not always gone according to plan.  I had a couple of unexpected lunch dates, which meant left overs lasted longer than usual.  I still haven't got around to making that pumpkin butternut squash laksa or the pork roast.  I have baskets of Ontario tomatoes, potatoes and nectarines to eat  as well, so those will need to find their way into a recipe soon.

I'm getting used to my new dairy-and-corn-free lifestyle, with a restricted intake of gluten.  One evening this past week, my son invited himself over for dinner, and requested I remake the chicken tikka spinach lentil dish he had last year.  That meant I had to make a quick run to the market for fresh ingredients, so I also grabbed a container of coconut yogurt (to keep things dairy free).  I blew the gluten budget this morning on half an everything bagel, so tonight I knew I'd have to go with something other than wheat based pasta if I wanted to make this next recipe.

Dairy Free Southern Mac 'n Cheese recipe

I've heard a lot about nutritional yeast, and I even used it once in a vegan seitan roast at Christmas, but this was my first time using it to mimic the taste of cheese.  I didn't have as much as the recipe demanded, but I figured it was probably wise to go easy with it the first time around anyways, just to be safe.

I decided to go with quinoa pasta tonight.  Believe it or not, quinoa is also on my list of restricted foods....I can only eat it once or twice a week at maximum.  That's what's making this whole transition so many of the common gluten substitutes are things I either can't eat or have to limit!  Corn, chickpeas, quinoa, spelt, brown's a long freaking list.

The sauce consists of two onions and a red bell pepper, sautéed until soft, a couple of handfuls of raw cashews, roasted for a few minutes, a tablespoon of tahini (I used sesame butter) and the nutritional yeast.  I combined all the ingredients in the blender, plugged it into the outlet on the stove, and it sparked and smoked and blew up right in my face.  Not the best start!

I moved the blender over to another outlet on the wall, and that went much more smoothly.  I had to add about 1/4 cup of water to get the right consistency, but I was amazed at how creamy and orange this sauce turned out!  I drained my pasta, combined it with the sauce, and then added a few large spoons of last year's homemade salsa.  Last but not least I ground some black pepper over the's been a while since I actually had Kraft Dinner mac 'n cheese, but I always loved it with black pepper - the more the better!

This was a treat.  The sauce was quite cheesy, and the salsa just gave it an extra kick of flavour.  If I hadn't added the salsa, you wouldn't be able to tell that there were vegetables in the dish.  I could see serving this to a child with food sensitivities, because they honestly wouldn't know that there was no cheese or dairy involved.  I made enough sauce for twice the amount of pasta, so I put the remainder in a mason jar for later in the week.  That's a couple of lunches sorted!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday Musings

I had a good weekend, despite the prematurely autumnal temperatures.  Saturday I had an almost private concert with an amazing singer in a cold, windy parking lot in the middle of nowhere.  Strange but true!  Sunday I spent a couple of hours wandering through Sobeys, perusing merchandise, reading labels to find things I could actually eat, and discovering new Jamie merchandise!  I didn't buy this:

I already have it on pre-order for 40% off elsewhere.  It's not officially supposed to be released until next week!  Sadly, every copy was plastic wrapped so I didn't even get a peek inside.  I did, however, buy this:

I got a bargain at $15, even though it was marked at $50 (thanks to my JO stamps and Club Sobeys points).  Now I have a complete set of dishes for Thanksgiving, along with a gravy boat and this lovely platter.  Next up, I want to start collecting the cutlery!  :)

I cleaned out my upstairs freezer and found a few things to use up.  Among them were some spicy sausages and last year's beet greens. Since I'm now apparently allowed to eat pork, I thought I'd recreate the Sausage Gnocchi 15 Minute Meal using a beautiful broccoli from the market, along with that delicious, warm kale beet green & green bean salad.  Say that three times fast!  What makes it so good is the pan-fried bacon & hazelnut topping with a hint of maple syrup.  Mmmmmmm.

For the week ahead, I'm trying to base my meals around what's in my fridge & freezer. 

lunch - deli cajun chicken wrap
dinner - left over sausage gnocchi & warm salad
prep - defrost chicken

lunch - Asian noodle soup with savoy cabbage
dinner - chicken with Dairy Free Southern Mac and Cheese

lunch - left over mac and cheese and/or noodle soup
dinner - pumpkin rice laksa soup
prep - defost tuna steak

lunch - left over pumpkin rice laksa soup
dinner - Asian Seared Tuna with roasted balsamic beets
prep - defrost pork roast

lunch - left over pumpkin rice laksa soup
dinner - roast pork with mashed potatoes & broccoli

Saturday/Sunday I'd like to do something with the left over pork from Save With Jamie.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Coffee Cake

My naturopathic doctor advises me that I should limit my gluten intake to three times a week (ideally) or at least once a day (realistically).  In an attempt to have some GF options in the house, I scoured the shelves of a few health food stores this weekend.  It's an exercise in frustration!  While it's not hard to find GF products, and a wide variety to boot, they generally use a mix of different flours to get the correct consistency.  Sadly, that usually means some type of cornstarch, brown rice or chick pea flour is included (all of which I have to completely avoid).  So I've come to the conclusion that I'm just going to have to consciously NOT eat breads or crackers or cookies or cakes at certain meals....unless they are flourless.

445.  Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Coffee Cake recipe

This is a flourless cake, and I was able to manipulate the recipe to also be dairy-free, by substituting some Earth Balance for the butter.  Since I only had 100g of ground almonds in the cupboard, I decided to cut the quantities in half.  Probably a good thing since I really don't need to eat a whole decadent coffee cake by myself!  I also thought I'd attempt to make these as individual would be that much easier to have some portion control!  Ha ha.

This was a three-part process:

1.  Melt dark chocolate, butter (or butter substitute) over simmering water on the stove, with a small amount of espresso or strong coffee.
2.  Combine egg yolks & sugar, whisk until smooth and pale, then fold in almonds and chocolate mixture.
3.  Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold this into the batter.

I greased my six part extra large muffin pan, then added paper liners, and filled them almost to the top to use up all the batter.  I put these into a 325 F oven for about 15 - 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre came out clean.

Oh wow, talk about indulgent!  I am actually not a coffee drinker (even though I love the flavour), so I ate this delectable treat with a nice cup of chai.  ;)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Seriously Good Fish Tagine

I've rediscovered the 30 Minute Meals book lately.  It seems as though I worked my way through most of the chicken and vegetarian meals, but I missed a few good ones from the fish chapter.  This one doesn't have a TV episode associated with it (sadly).  It's been a while since I made a tagine....or a "stew with attitude", as Jamie calls them.  I've had some successes, some do-overs, and some failures before, but I was sure this one would be a slam dunk!

444.  Seriously Good Fish Tagine (Jamie Oliver's Meals In Minutes, page 155) recipe

The cookbook calls for monkfish, but this US-based website calls for cod.  I only had frozen Alaskan pollock, so that's what I used....along with mussels, of course.  Mussels are my life saver.  I mean, almost 2 pounds for less than $4, you can't beat that!  For the salad, I thought I'd have arugula rather than fennel (because it's what I had on hand).  The only other substitution I made was basmati rice in place of couscous.  I found out yesterday that I have to limit my gluten intake, along with about 35 other foods....but it could be worse.  They could take my fish away from me, and they aren't doing that!

I started out by making a big pot of basmati, so I could make the kids a quick fried rice, and parboiling some potatoes.  I saved some rice for myself, cleared everyone out of the kitchen, and got to work on my tagine.  I put my pollock in a square Pyrex roasting pan, and sprinkled it with minced garlic, fennel seeds, ras el hanout, dried oregano, salt and pepper, and drizzled it with a little olive oil.  This went under the broiler, while I sauteed onions & chiles on the stove top with a cinnamon stick and some more fennel seeds.  To this I added chopped tomatoes, a chopped preserved lemon, ras el hanout, some chopped cilantro and a pinch of saffron.  I added a cup of water and got things simmering, but did not attempt to fashion a tagine out of aluminum foil......screw that.  I just used a lid. 

I put the mussels into a colander in the sink to clean & debeard them, and checked for any that weren't closed.  I found a few.....I always buy more mussels than the recipe calls for, just in case.  I added the good ones to the "tagine", along with the potatoes.  Strangely, the book doesn't list potatoes as an ingredient, but the website version does.  I wonder if they got axed because of the 30-minute restriction?  I figured they'd bulk the dish out a bit, so why not add them?

I removed my fish from the oven carefully, using an oven mitt, and took it over to the sink to drain off some of the excess liquid (since the fish was partially frozen when it started cooking).  Just as I tilted the pan, it exploded in my hand!  Scared the shit out of me!  Thankfully most of the glass fell into the sink, and not onto the floor or into my face.  No one was hurt, but this is the second time this has happened.  I realize that tempered glass has to be handled carefully, but I didn't put it in cold water or anything like that.  It was just the temperature of the air, I guess.  Maybe the oven was too hot.  I think this was my last remaining Pyrex pan, but I don't plan to buy any more.  Just not worth the risk.

Sadly, my fish had to be thrown out because it, too, landed in the sink, amongst the shards of glass.  I decided I'd had enough at that point, so I sat down to eat my mussel tagine with rice and none of the other planned side dishes.  It was not as strongly flavoured as other tagines I've made, but it was tasty just the same. 

Tonight, I'll have the left overs with salad and spicy yogurt, barring any more explosions!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Back to Monday Meal Planning

I've had a couple of off-the-cuff weeks lately, but it's time to get back to business.  Summer is over, we are into cooler temperatures this week, thanks to a mega storm the other night that was, frankly, quite scary.  We were out at the ballpark on a hot, humid night when this came over the tree line, moving fast, and we all went running for the cars!

It was like something out of one of those movies like The Day After Tomorrow or Twister or something, it came on so freaking fast.  Only one area of the city had damage to roofs and had trees uprooted, but still.  It lasted for hours.  When it was over, we'd dropped something like 15 degrees Celsius and summer was over.  Just like that. 

The only things left in my garden that are doing well are purple okra and some hot chiles (which have yet to turn red).  I'm also still getting a few green & purple beans, Swiss chard, and beets.  Oh, and the leeks are getting bigger.  I usually leave those into November.  I planted some arugula where the zucchinis used to be, to see if I can grow some before the snow comes.  It likes the colder weather.

Purple okra

This weekend was mostly spent at the diamond, watching my son's last baseball tournament of the year. However, one morning I got up early and made a coconut zucchini bread.  One evening, I took all the ingredients for some Beef Kofta Curry over to my son's house, and showed his g/f how to make it.  She loved it the first time I served it to her, but something got lost in the translation when I sent her the recipe.  She was unfamiliar with some of the ingredients, like ginger, spring onions, and coconut milk, so we had a hands-on session and I think she gets it now.  It's such an easy recipe, as it's just all combined in the blender!  For dessert, she made a wonderful apple crisp and went out of her way to buy me some lactose & sugar free vanilla ice cream.  I indulged.

This week, I need to use the big savoy cabbage I bought at the market a while back.  I thought I'd make a pot of Jamie's Italian Ribollita since it's getting cold at night.  This will do well for work lunches.  I grabbed my first two squash of the season at the market this weekend, yay!  I've been waiting patiently for them to be ready.  I refuse to buy them per pound in the supermarket.  So I might roast one of those up and do something with it...perhaps a pasta, if I can figure out a dairy-free cheese alternative.  If I feel like seafood, I discovered another untelevised recipe in 30 Minute Meals, for a Seriously Good Fish Tagine (including mussels).  I love that mussels are so affordable, so I'll go and grab a pound or two fresh when I need them.

So, maybe not the most precise meal plan, but I know what I have to work with, and I have some idea of what I'm going to do with it.  Good enough for me!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Swedish-Style Fish Cakes with BBQ Chicken & Green Beans

I got really ambitious on Labour Day, and decided to make two dinners, fish for me and chicken for everyone else.  I started in the afternoon, figuring that I could get things to a certain point and then go out for a late matinee movie, and finish when we returned home, hungry for dinner.

442.  Swedish-Style Fishcakes, Sprout Salad, Roasted Baby New Potatoes and Fresh Zingy Salsa (Jamie Oliver's Meals in Minutes, page 146) recipe

I used to eat fish cakes as a child (of the frozen variety).  I've made them myself with salmon and even with risotto in recent years, but never with three different varieties fish all at the same time!  Now, normally I'd never consider chopping up a tuna steak.  They're too damned expensive.  But I lucked into 4 x 4 oz tuna steaks from a chef friend of my daughter's.  They only use the best cuts in the restaurant, and then usually dispose of the trimmings. 

I defrosted all the fish, cut it into pieces, and threw tuna, salmon & Alaskan pollock (in place of haddock) into my food processor, along with the zest of a lemon and a handful of parsley leaves from the garden.  I seasoned with salt and pepper and pulsed a few times until chopped.  In the meantime, I dug some bread crumbs out of the freezer, and spread them out on some aluminum foil.  I added a tablespoon or so of the breadcrumbs to the fish and formed it into two equal sized patties, and placed them on top of the crumbs.  I sprinkled more over the top and put them in the fridge until time to eat.

I peeled and boiled some potatoes as well, and left them to cool on the counter (covered with a tea towel). 

At dinner time,  I put the potatoes in a casserole dish with some fresh herbs from the garden, salt, pepper and olive oil.  I put that in the oven to brown up and got to work on my fish cakes.  I put some olive oil in a frying pan with a minced clove of garlic, and when it started to sizzle, added the two fish cakes.  I flipped them when they were nicely browned.  They didn't take long at all, and surprisingly didn't fall apart.  Easy peasy!  Instead of making the salsa, I decided to open one of my jars of homemade summer salsa.

I loved the crispy breadcrumb batter.  I actually used a loaf of curry bread for the crumbs, which isn't particularly Swedish I know, but gave a great flavour.  And the fish was moist but cooked through.  Yum.  In place of the sprout salad, I stole an Herby Arugula Salad from the Fish Tray-Bake meal in the same book.  Arugula is one of my favourite greens, and to boot it's considered a bitter green - one of those liver boosting veggies I'm supposed to eat.

443.  Barbecued Chicken With Warm Green Bean Salad recipe

This is another recipe on the website that doesn't list what book it comes from.  I haven't had a chance to go through all the indexes to see if I can locate it in my library of cookbooks, but if I do I'll update the title.

I deboned my chicken breasts, and then butterflied them.  I marinated them in lemon juice, rosemary & EVOO in the afternoon, placing them in the fridge.  I picked green & purple beans from the garden, along with yellow & purple cherry tomatoes, and cleaned them up.  That's about all the preparation needed for this recipe.

At dinner time, I put the griddle pan over a high heat, and grilled the chicken for a few minutes on each side, until done.  I seasoned the tomatoes, added a bit of EVOO, and put them in the oven to roast for about 20 minutes.  I boiled the beans until fork tender, then drained them and put them back in the pot with the tomatoes.  I made a quick mustard viniagrette and stirred that through the veggies.

The chicken disappeared before I even thought to take a picture of it.  My mom questioned the tomatoes, not believing they were actually tomatoes because "the ones at the store are always red".  Thank God the purple beans turned green during the cooking process or we might have had a mutiny on our hands.  No one complained about anything else, so I take it the chicken tasted good too.  ;)

I enjoyed the veggies so much that I took the left overs to work for lunch, along with some four grain salad.  I liked the mustard dressing in place of the usual EVOO, garlic & parmesan I am accustomed to using...and hey, it's dairy free!  :)

This post has been shared at the Wednesday Fresh Foods Link Up at She Eats!