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Showing posts from 2013

Deep and Delicious Shepherd's Pie

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Who doesn't like Shepherd's Pie? It's a quintessential fall/winter dinner packed full of delicious beef and veggies and it's pretty obviously a favourite of mine. Better yet? It's so simple to make and neatly rounds out my Shepherd's Pie recipe set.



Ingredients:

1 1/4 pounds of yukon gold (or similar), peeled and cubed3 cloves of garlic, roughly cut (they'll get mashed)1 pound of lean ground beef1 onion, diced2 tbsp all-purpose flour3/4 cup beef or vegetable broth3 tbsp tomato paste1 cup carrots sliced/diced1 cup button or cremini mushrooms sliced1 cup celery chopped1 cup of peas1 cup of corn1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (divided)3/4 cup sour creamsalt and pepper to tasteDirections:
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Place potatoes and garlic in a pot and fill with enough water to cover. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer on medium/low, cover, and simmer until tender (15 - 20 minutes).


While potatoes are cooking, brown the beef and o…

Quick Tip: Ricotta for Cream Cheese

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Have a recipe that calls for cream cheese but you're either not a fan of it or you don't have it on hand? Well, ricotta cheese makes a very good substitute. Just drain off the moisture and substitute in your recipe 1 for 1.

Mind you, you have to have ricotta on hand to substitute... :)

Shepherd's Pie Potato Skins

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When you get right down to it, how can you not love Shepherd's Pie? It's always been one of my favourites because it's mostly beef, potatoes, and cheese! Now, what could possibly make it better? Well... How about cooking it in the potato skins? Oh yeah...



So, here's what you need:

2 large baking potatoes, baked as desired (BBQ is nice...)4 tsp butter (divided)1 onion, chopped1 carrot, finely diced1/2 pound lean ground beef2 cups beef or vegetable stock2 tsp Worcestershire sauce2 tbsp tomato paste1/4 tsp summer savoury1/4 tsp dried oregano1/4 tsp dried basilSalt and pepper to taste1 cup of grated cheddar (I prefer old cheddar for the tangy flavour) Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
Melt half the butter in a non-stick, deep, frying pan at medium heat. Add in the onion and cook for about 3-4 minutes, until soft. Add the ground beef, increase heat to medium-high, and cook an additional 3-4 minutes or until beef has browned. Add in the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, summer …

Quick Tip: Fresh vs Dried Herbs

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While I generally prefer to use fresh herbs over dried herbs, that's not always possible, and dried really is okay. However, unless a recipe states to use fresh, it is most likely dried variant that is the ingredient being listed. In general, I use a 3 to 1 ratio of fresh to dried in measuring. For example, 1 tsp of dried oregano equates to 3 tsps of fresh oregano.

Now, for those of you who like to grow your herbs in your garden (like me), you can dry them yourself for use in the winter. These will taste much better than the five year old bottle in your spice cabinet, truly. So, to dry them, all you really need is a way to produce warm air flow around the herbs. You can do this with dedicated dehydration machines (active and passive) or with a convection oven with the door propped open at 140 to 160 degrees (drying time varies with herb and quantity, so keep an eye on them). Enjoy!

BBQ Cider Chicken

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Chicken done on the BBQ is always something to enjoy, but you can take it to the next level using beer or cider. In this case, I went cider with a can of the well-known Strongbow cider and it's oh-so tender and tasty. So, what do you do?

First, pre-heat your BBQ. We're going to want to work with indirect heat, so this works best if you have 3 or more burners on a gas BBQ or a large working surface if you have a coal/wood BBQ. Either way, you want to get up to about 550 degrees or so and ensure that the chicken has a place that isn't directly on the flames.

As the BBQ is getting going, time to prep things up. I have a can holder, which is very useful to have, and I placed the can of cider in it. You want to drain it down to about half a can. If you like cider to drink, that's the best way to reach the half way mark...



The holder gives good stability on the BBQ, which is handy if you don't want to risk having the chicken fall over when you lift the lid just a little …

Tex-Mex Night

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Not all that surprisingly, my quick post around fajita seasoning was a prelude to actually making use of it. So, tonight, was Tex-Mex night with Mexican rice and fajita-style enchiladas in a tomato sauce.

Without further ado, the how:

Mexican Rice3 tbsp olive oil1 cup of uncooked, long-grain, rice1 clove of garlic, minced1/2 tsp of ground cumin1/4 cup chopped onion (I prefer sweet white)1/2 cup crushed tomatoes2 cups chicken broth In a large sauce pan, heat oil over medium heat and add rice. While stirring, constantly, add in the garlic and cumin and mix in. Continue stirring until rice expands (about 2 to 3 minutes). Stir in chopped onion and continue to stir until onion has softened. 
When onion has softened, add in crushed tomatoes and chicken broth. Mix thoroughly and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduced heat to low/simmer and simmer rice covered for 20 minutes or so, until liquid is absorbed.
This serves 4, but downsizing the recipe isn't practical given the volumes. Packag…

Fajita Spice is Easy

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Many people spend the money buying pre-packaged fajita spices, but you really don't have to, it's easy to do it yourself and save some money while you're at it. Besides, it's quite likely that you have most, if not all, the necessary ingredients on hand if you at all like Tex-Mex anyways.



2 tbsp corn starch4 tsp chili powder2 tsp sea salt2 tsp paprika1 tsp sugar1 tsp onion powder1/2 tsp garlic powder1/2 tsp cayenne pepper1 tsp ground cumin1 1/2 tsp powdered vegetable stock Combine all ingredients in a jar or bowl and mix thoroughly. 2 tablespoons is about one package of the pre-mixed. Also worth experimenting with smokey paprika, other hot pepper, different salts, etc.

Quick Tip: Easy Steak Marinade

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I don't always use a marinade when BBQ'ing a steak, but one quick option that adds nice flavours without overwhelming the meat is:

2 tbsp soy sauce2 tbsp dry sherry2 tbsp watermedly of fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, etc. have fun) Soak your steak in that for about 45 minutes to an hour. When ready to put on the BBQ, discard the marinade, salt and pepper both sides, and grill according to your usual plan.

Never Buy Pizza Pops Again: The Pizza Wrap

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Pizza pops are probably my big junk food weakness. I like them, but they're not exactly the best thing to be eating... Turns out, though, that a healthier alternative is almost as quick and easy to make as the store bought, frozen, option.

If you're a beginner on doing tortilla wraps, then this Youtube video should be watched:




Big secret: microwave each tortilla for 30 seconds on high, makes it dead easy.

Ingredients

5 large tortilla wraps (size in the above video is perfect)1/2 cup of diced pepper (green, red, yellow, doesn't matter)1/2 cup of diced mushrooms (pick your favourite)1/2 cup of sliced up bacon1/2 cup of diced pepperoni or sausage1/2 cup of shallots or onions (I prefer shallots)1/2 cup of crushed tomatoes1 cup of grated cheese of choice (I like cheddar or mozzarella)1 clove of garlic, choppedBasil to taste (dried or fresh)Oregano to taste (dried or fresh)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix chopped garlic, basil, and oregano in the crushed tomatoes.

Sprea…

Quick Tip: Fry Your Eggs in Truffle Oil

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Real truffle oil (when made with truffles) is a treat. Basically, this is an olive oil is infused with truffles (mushrooms) that gives it a heady, earthy, tone. This tone added to eggs fried with some basil and oregano creates a wonderful taste sensation that is hard to beat.

Give it a try!

Just make sure, however, to use real truffle oil. There are cheaper variants made with chemicals. They're not the same.

Zucchini and Calabrese Flatbread Delight

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This weekend I find myself as a temporary bachelor and, in the spirit of the moment, I decided that some form of pizza was the thing to be doing... with a twist. What I decided that might be interesting is a flatbread with some spicy Calabrese sausage, zucchini, and yellow peppers. I was very, very, right.

So, without further ado, I give you my Zucchini and Calabrese Flatbread discovered only just tonight...


Ingredients

1 small (or part) zucchini sliced thin1 small yellow pepper cut into ringsCalabrese sausage thinly slicedEmenthal cheese, grated to desired amountClove of garlic, mincedCrushed tomatoesLarge flatbreadFresh chopped oreganoFresh chopped basilFresh chopped thymeSalt to tastePepper to taste1 tbsp Olive oil
Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a small skillet over high heat, sauté zucchini in olive oil, with some fresh oregano, salt, pepper, and garlic. Not too long, just enough to soften the zucchini.
On the flatbread, spread the crushed tomato thinly (you really don…

Zucchini a la Bruschetta

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I love zucchini, it's versatile, tasty, and incredibly easy to grow. In fact, it's almost too easy to grow because the darn fruits of the plant can get monstrously large if you don't keep an eye on them. That led me to an experiment to figure out a way to make use of some of the giants that I pulled from my garden and so Zucchini a la Bruschetta was born.


Ingredients

1 Zucchini sliced to maximize surface (if you have a large zucchini then disks are fine, if you have a standard store-bought one, then a length-wise cut is best).1 garden tomato, sliced and cut to fit on the zucchini1 clove garlic, finely chopped1 shallot, sliced into ringlets1/2 cup of gouda cheese, gratedSalt to taste*Freshly ground pepperOlive oilDirections
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Place zucchini in a casserole dish and brush with olive oil, add a layer of tomato slices, then shallots, then garlic (the order doesn't really matter). Salt and pepper. Cover with cheese.
Place in oven for about 20 minute…

The Adventure Begins

Welcome to my new blog.

The reason I decided to create this blog is that I've rediscovered my interest in cooking and, more specifically, that my taste buds had changed. It's been about two years or so since I quit smoking and, in that time, I've discovered that I do in fact like a bunch of vegetables, that I do like rice, and that a stir fry is not only fun, it's tasty! I've also discovered that chicken fingers and fries is boring, that pizza pops are junk food, and that you can make a meal that is both delicious and fun to do.

So, I've created this blog as a means of sharing recipes I discover (or create), techniques I've learned, equipment I've found, and more.