Thursday, 29 November 2012

Your kids will ask for broccoli!

It's not rocket science and generations have known for some time that if you want your children to eat their broccoli (or carrot or cauliflower or peas) smother the vegetable in cheese sauce!  Yeah, that's right, I said it.  Smother the vegetable in cheese sauce.  Of course, that is if your gang is not intolerant of gluten and dairy products.

Start off with a roux (a mix of fat and flour that you cook for a minute or so), add some milk and a handful of cheese.  Voilà!  La magie!  Broccoli disappears.  You've given them yours off your plate and still they want more.  Uh huh.

Below, I've broken the recipe for cheese sauce into a recipe for a white sauce and then added cheese to it.  The white sauce, prepared as below, can be served hot on cooked vegetables, fish, poultry, seafood or hard-cooked eggs.  You can add spices as you want depending on what you will be using it for (perhaps dill for eggs or seafood, for example).

White Sauce
straight outta Cooks Illustrated 1980
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour (I've used whole wheat also and it was fine)
1/4 tsp salt
few shakes of pepper
pinch paprika
1/2 cup milk
- measure all your ingredients and have them waiting
- in small heavy pot, melt butter
- add flour, salt, pepper and paprika.  Low heat, stir to smooth.
- gradually stir in milk, cook, stirring constantly to thick and smooth.
If you want cheese sauce, at this point throw in a handful (1/2 cup) grated cheese of your choice (medium or old cheddar recommended) and 1/8 tsp dry mustard (optional).  Stir to melted.

You can steam a head of broccoli and pour a bit of sauce over the broccoli on each plate or you can serve the broccoli with the sauce on the side if you have little dippers in the house.  You can also break up the broccoli and stir it around gently in the pot, then serve.

This sauce is also good over hot, cooked pasta or rice, although I'll be posting soon about a kick butt mac 'n cheese (maybe two).

This keeps in the fridge for a couple of days.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Chickpea Curry and Chapattis

My Big Kid loves this dish and requests it when I solicit meal ideas.  It's great fresh and leftover.  It's a complete protein if you combine it with a grain - chapattis or naan bread are awesome examples.  If you choose one of these breads you don't even need cutlery, just scoop up the curry with the bread cupped in your fingers!  Bliss!

Chickpea curry will warm you up and make your home smell so good while it is cooking.  It has lots of onion and garlic in it to help clean your blood and keep you strong on the inside to fight colds and whatever's going around. 

Served with basmati rice.
This recipe comes directly from my Essential Vegetarian cookbook.  It's a good one to put on your shelf.  It's very informative about food, the vegetarian diet and some hero foods and food combining.  It really is basic if you are just getting started understanding food and how it works with our bodies and minds.  I re-read the first 30 pages every now and then to bring myself back to centre when I feel I am straying from what is healthy and good for me.  The meals inside are usually budget- and waist-friendly as well.

This curry is not hot at all.  I can serve it to everyone in my family.  If it is not hot enough for you, try adding more chili powder and as always, ensure your spices are fresh.  Oh yes, I do not use coriander, I just can't stomach it so I omit it completely.  I've added it here because I'm sure it serves some purpose.  I (too often) forget the garam masala to add at the end right before you serve it and it really does add a lot, so do what you can to not forget it.  If you do think of it at the last second it can be sprinkled on each bowl.

It is great to prep it all before you start.  Slice onions finely and crush garlic, chop a bit.  Measure out spices into one little bowl (not garam masala).  Open cans, drain and rinse as needed.  GO!

Chickpea Curry
from Essential Vegetarian
2 onions
4 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp ghee or oil
1 tsp chili powder (adjust for your audience)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp grounde coriander
2 x 14 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 x 28 oz can diced tomatoes (you may also add more tomatoes if you like, it still works)
1 tsp garam masala
- slice onions finely, crush garlic.  Heat ghee or oil in a big fry pan medium heat, cook onions and garlic to soft.  Stir often.
- add spices (not garam masala), stir over medium heat 1 minute to fragrant.
- add chickpeas and tomatoes (undrained).  Simmer, covered, over low heat 20 minutes.
- stir in garam masala, simmer 10 minutes.

Close-up of the delicious dish.

Pecan Pie Bars

I have made these to start off my HOLIDAY BAKING!  I'm so excited to have these in the freezer, waiting for December 1st, when I officially open the floodgates to Christmas in our house. 

Peanut batch

Fa la la la la, la la la la.  (Click here for some Bing Crosby Christmas music.)

Pecan batch.

I jumped on this recipe because it does not call for corn syrup.  Up to this moment, I'd not put any effort into researching why we should be avoiding corn syrup but just went along with the notion that high fructose corn syrup and the corn syrup you buy at the grocery store (to pour on vanilla ice cream or add to your homemade pancake syrup to avoid crytsalization) are similar enough to avoid them both.  I'm wrong!  YAY!  I can buy corn syrup again.  That said, please read a bit about high fructose corn syrup and always check the labels of the foods you buy, you'll find this ingredient everywhere. 

Unless you buy ingredients to make food and don't buy "food" prepared for you, then, you should be alright!

Enough education, let's get to the good stuff!

I made this recipe in two 8x8" square pans by using one batch of the base divided in the two pans.  I used two small pots to make the topping as I only had 1 cup of pecans in the house and I used 1 cup of salted peanuts for the other pan.  You can see the difference in the colour of the final products in the pictures, the peanuts are lighter in colour.  They are both good, but different from each other.  I'd do either again.  Chop yer nuts up real fine, like.  It's easier to cut and serve.

The pictures found at Just a Taste are far more luscious-looking than mine.  I think it has to do with the size of the pans I used.  Or perhaps I should've baked for about 5 mintues less, that would've helped too.

Pecan Pie Bars
from Just a Taste
For crust:
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat)
½ teaspoon salt
For topping:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons heavy cream (I used 6%)
2 cups chopped pecans
- preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a 9x13-inch pan with foil, leaving enough for a 2-inch overhang on all sides, grease. (Or two 8x8"s)
- first make the crust by creaming together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add in the flour and salt and mix until crumbly.
- press the crust into the foil-lined pan and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
- while the crust bakes, prepare the filling by combining the butter, brown sugar, honey and heavy cream in a saucepan and stirring it over medium heat. Simmer the mixture for 1 minute, then stir in the chopped nuts.

- remove the crust from the oven and immediately pour the pecan filling over the hot crust spreading it to cover the entire surface.
- return the pan to the oven and bake an additional 20 minutes. (15 is using two 8x8")
- remove the pan and allow the bars to fully cool in the pan.
- use the foil overhang to lift out the bars and transfer them to a cutting board. Peel off the foil, slice into bars and serve or freeze.


Fast Red Lentil Soup

When I open my Essential Vegetarian that my Mum gave to me a while ago to make the Chickpea Curry, I usually whip up a batch of this soup at the same time.  It is quick to throw together, I usually have all the ingredients in the house, it freezes well and we all love it. 

I add (almost) whatever veggies I have in the house - peppers of any colour, carrots, a bit of celery, a potato, sweet potato, a bit of turnip (not much).  I add the finely chopped or diced vegetables at the beginning with the onion.

Not going to win any photgraphy awards, but here are the bowls lined up for my family's supper -
three wees and three bigs!
I also usually double it, I'm already chopping, so what's a bit more?!

Fast Red Lentil Soup
directly from Essential Vegetarian
1 onion, chopped finely
1 Tbsp olive oil
any vegetables you choose
1 cup red lentils
1 - 14oz can of diced tomatoes
4 cups stock or water (you'll want to add some seasoning if you use water, like a bouillon cube)
- fry onion and any vegetables you are adding in a bit of oil until soft
- add lentil, tomatoes and stock (or water and seasonings)
- bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.  Serve topped with a small dollop of sour cream.

You can also add some quinoa or rice (brown or wild) to this soup.  If you have some of these grains already cooked, throw them in.  If you are adding them uncooked, add extra water or stock so the grain can absorb it (thoroughly rinse your quinoa first).  Keep in mind that these grains will continue to grow and absorb the liquid so I prefer to only add them to the batch I am serving and will consume, not to the batch that is destined to be frozen.  Freeze your cooked grains along with the soup in a separate baggie or container so you will have some to add for next time. 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Oreo Puddin' Poke and recipe for Crazy Cake

I made this cake for supper tonight.  And it'll be for lunch boxes next week.  It was a lot of fun.

I used my Mum's Crazy Cake recipe and used one box of Cookies 'n Cream Instant Pudding (Jell-O brand). 

The Big Kid said a couple of times that I "really outdid [my]self this time".  Uh, thanks.  It's really nothing special.  But it is good and moist.

It is believed this cake recipe may have been developed when there was a lack of eggs, butter, or milk, perhaps in the 1930's.  So far, I have not read any definitive stories about it's birth just bits and pieces.  It is most often referred to as Wacky Cake, I have always called it Crazy Cake.  It's crazy 'cuz it works!

My original recipe card that I use every time.

Crazy Cake
from Prevention Magazine January 1999
1.5 cups flour (I used whole wheat this time)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa (rounded)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp veg oil
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup cold water (see Note)
- preheat oven to 350F
- sift dry in a big bowl, make three depressions and add oil, vinegar, vanilla.  Pour water over all and mix thoroughly.
- grease pan, pour in and bake as below
8x8, 30 minutes
12 cupcakes, 22 minutes
Note: you can also substitute coffee (warm or cold) for the water, it is excellent.
You can frost this with my favourite chocolate icing or a simple dusting of icing sugar.

FOR THE PUDDING CAKE, (here is where I got my inspiration) prepare and bake a cake (can be a mix or your standby recipe, see above). Near the end of the cooking time for the cake, prepare your Cookies 'n Cream instant pudding mix as per the directions. As soon as your cake comes out of the oven, poke holes all over the top with a clean pencil or skinny dowel (don't be shy, stab away at it, deep and often). Immediately pour the pudding over the cake and let it cool completely. Serve.

This would be great with cookies chopped up on top or even a sprinkling of Oreo baking crumbs. Perhaps a white cake with a lemon pudding. Or try another cake and pudding combination, go wild!

And then report back to me!

Finished cake, you can see how the pudding has sunk in.

Pouring on the pudding, you can see the holes I made, make more than I did.

Cake before refrigerating and serving.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Product review - Epicure Selections

I have tried three Epicure Selections dip mixes.

The first (and best so far) was Cheese, Chives and Bacon. Oh. my. This was way too good.

Photo courtesy Epicure Selections
I used it on a baked potato and chips.  Fortunately, I served it to guests so I didn't have to consume it all myself.  I could've though. 

The next one I loved was 3 Onion Dip Mix.  It, too, was extraordinary.  It was also served on a baked potato and on chips. 

Photo courtesy Epicure Selections
The third was not my cup o' tea.  I tried Lemon Dilly Dip Mix in my tuna salad and it didn't jive with the sandwich.  I have tried a bit on some mashed potato and it was better suited there.  Perhaps the tuna was just not the best fit for it.  I love dill, so perhaps it was the combination with lemon.  Whatever the case, this third choice was not for me.

Photo courtesy Epicure Selections

There is a lot to be done with each of Epicure Selections' fantastic line of products.  These, and many other Dip Mixes they sell can be used as rubs for meats, marinades, and of course, kick ass DIPS!

Note: I purchased one bottle of spice mix from my representative and was gifted two sample envelopes of other products.  The above is entiretly my opinion. 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Cinnamon Roll Pancake Squares

My family loves pancakes for breakfast.  Maybe they really just love the syrup, some days I can't tell. 

The downside of pancakes for such a big crowd (and I consider my family a crowd) is how long you're standing at the stove cooking.  Yes, you can make them early and call everyone to breakfast while the pancakes have been staying warm and toasty in the oven, but you still need to stand there, watch them, flip, pour, repeat. 

Enter... waffle iron!  Then, I can pump out four servings at once, it's faster to cook and I can actually sit with my family and enjoy breakfast.

But NOW, woah!  Not only have I figured out how to make "pancakes" in the oven, but there's a simple variation that turns them into a cinnamon roll!  SO FAST!  Gobbled up by my family for a snack just now, I HAD to come tell you about it!  I JUST HAD TO!  I felt like I shouldn't keep it to myself.

You can make this for breakfast on a SCHOOL DAY!  I swear!  If you're feeling industrious, you can mix the dry and wet ingredients separately the night before, combine in the morning and you'll have earned your Supermom status for yet another day!

I used all whole wheat flour and did not have cream cheese so used a simple glaze of 1 cup icing sugar with a bit less than 2 Tbsp 10% cream.

I feel fairly certain these will still be excellent after they've cooled.  I even see me cutting up the leftovers to wrap and freeze for lunches. 

Baked Cinnamon Roll Pancakes
from Big Red Kitchen
1 1/2 cups milk
4 Tbsp melted butter
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp sugar
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease an 11×17 inch jellyroll pan.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together milk, butter and egg. Add sugar, then gradually beat the flour in. Carefully stir in the baking powder and salt.
- Pour batter into prepared pan.
- Squeeze out swirls of Cinnamon Roll Filling over pancake batter- 4 swirls across, 3 down, for 12 pancakes.  You can vary the size if you like.
- Bake in 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes until centre is set and does not give when pressed with your finger.
- Remove from oven and drizzle with Maple Cream Cheese Drizzle.
- Serve immediately. Makes 12 large pancakes.

Cinnamon Roll Filling
4 Tbsp melted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp cinnamon
In a small bowl mix filling ingredients together until blended well. Place in a pastry bag or plastic ziptop bag and snip corner to swirl over pancake batter.

Maple Cream Cheese Drizzle
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp good maple syrup
Mix the first three ingredients in a bowl until smooth, dripping in small amounts of milk until mixture is a drizzling consistency. I like to place mine in a pastry bag and drizzle that way.

My goodness, these were so easy and I think you guys can come up with some variations of your own to share with me.