Butterfly Chicken Breast with Braised Leeks & Shallots

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Mouthwatering to look at, the taste will meet all of your expectations. The onion like taste of the braised leeks, enhanced by the braised shallots, complements the taste of the chicken breast perfectly! When you learn to make this, it will become a favourite that you serve to friends and guests that they ask for specifically, often!

Ingredients

  • 1 Leek
  • 2 Shallots
  • 2 Skinless, boneless, chicken breasts.
  • Sliced Cheese (my favourite for this is Havarti but Provolone or Swiss would be just as good. Avoid using cheddar for this, it’s too overpowering)
  • Butter for cooking.

 

Directions

1.) Cut the bottom end off the Leek and then cut a length that is roughly equal to the length of your chicken breasts. Slice it lengthwise and then discard the white outer layers, reserving the green inner layers to cook.

2.) Peel and slice two shallots.

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3.) Add butter to a frying pan. Bring it to a high heat to melt the butter and then turn it down to medium high. Add the green leek slices and the shallots. Move them around frequently. If the butter dries up, add some more. You need to keep them moist/oily with the butter during the cooking process to braise them properly and not burn them (so don’t use the highest heat setting!).

roulade1_2If you are making more than two butterfly breasts, you will need to do the Leeks/Shallots in two batches. Just like mushrooms, you don’t want to overcrowd them.

 

roulade1_4It will only take a few minutes to get the Leeks/Shallots to the cooked, tender condition you want. Keep a close eye on them and as I said above, move them around often!

 

4.) While the Leeks/Shallots are cooking, using a sharp chef’s knife you need to “butterfly” the chicken breasts. You cut them along the long edge but do not cut them all the way through. You need to leave one side intact so that you can spread open the cut breast like you open a book. More pointedly, when they are opened they give the impression of a butterfly’s wings opened, hence the term “butterfly”.

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5.) Lay the chicken breats open on your work surface. On each half add a slice of your chosen cheese. On each of the two chicken breasts, lay one half of the Leeks and the Shallots.

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6.) Using kitchen string (ask the Butcher for a 3 ft. length if you can’t find any for sale), fold over the chicken breasts and then tie them together in two or three places along the length of the breast.

7.) Heating some more butter in the frying pan as you did above, cook the chicken breasts over medium high heat, ensuring there is always moistness (butter) in the pan. Don’t use the highest heat setting, you will burn the chicken and not cook it through. Patience is the key for preparing this gastronomical treasure. Make sure you use tongs to frequently cook these on all sides. You will probably even need to stand them on their open side a few minutes to complete the cooking process. A bit of the cheese will melt out into the pan but not enough to worry about.

roulade1_6Use butter, not oil!

roulade1_7Keep turning them after every two minutes until fully cooked all the way through.

 

8.) When the chicken breasts are fully cooked, transfer them to your serving plate and enjoy! A white wine reduction made with the suc goes nicely on these.

 

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Bon Appetite!

 

 

Perfect Mushrooms

One thing I hate is when excellent flavour is lost to high heat and over cooking. Most people I know think that the stove has to be turned up high for everything…. and food cooked forever…. until it’s shoe leather.

One of the foods that often fall prey to this is mushrooms. There are such a variety and palate of flavours available in the many kinds of mushrooms you can find in the grocery store. My favourite to cook with in everything is Crimini but Mini Bella are also a new favourite.

There are two ways I like to cook mushrooms. One is with water and oil in a stir fry and the other is to braise them on the stove top.

SECRET #1: Do not crowd the mushrooms!! This is a lesson learned from Julia Childs cooking and it has become a solid truth that is re-validated every time I cook mushrooms. Mushrooms should not be piled high on each other, there is no need to see how many you can get in the pan. Cramming a pan with mushrooms forces them to cook un-evenly and become overcooked.

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Place them evenly around the pan with some space. It takes longer to cook a larger batch but with the exquisite flavour you are learning to imbue in the mushrooms, quality far surpasses quantity!

 

SECRET #2: Cook them in three parts butter to one part Canola or vegetable oil (never cook them in Olive Oil!). This technique is not quite “braising” but close enough. You will get nice colouring and the mushrooms will be packed full of flavour. They not only burst with the inherent mushroom taste, that taste is multiplied by the flavours of the butter that are absorbed into the cooking mushrooms. Notice that I use tongs to cook mushrooms with, not a spatula.

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Want something even richer tasting?

Cook full sized whole Crimini mushrooms in the 3:1 Butter/Oil mix over a medium high heat until fully cooked. This will take about 15 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and then add 1/4 cup red wine to the pan over the medium high heat. With a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pan to lift the suc (browned bits that stick to the pan) and re-incorporate it into the heating wine and oils. Simmer to reduce by half and then pour the wine reduction over the mushrooms in a bowl and serve immediately.

 

Bon Appetite!

Roasted Cracker Topping/Dip

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I usually make this when I make Tomato sauce. I reserve the onions from the tomato sauce to add to this. it’s very delicious if you like the full flavours of stewed tomatoes and roasted tomatoes and red peppers. Just spoon it onto your favourite cracker. You can store this for several days in the fridge. When you take it out to serve, depending on the size of bowl, you need to microwave it for 20 to 30 seconds. The fats in the tomato sauce and olive oil solidify when it’s in the fridge.

Ingredients

 

That’s all their is to it. It’s best if served slightly warmed rather than chilled. Again, you do need to warm it to liquify the fats that solidify in the fridge.

 

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Bon Appetite!

Meatballs & Spaghetti

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Is there a better comfort food than spaghetti (or any pasta) with homemade Tomato sauce and delicious meatballs? There is a lot of prep time for the meat balls but as long as you follow a good recipe, they are super easy to make.

I’m going to show you how to make them two ways. The first is cooked in a tomato sauce, super tender and ideal for topping spaghetti or to make a meatball sandwich on a bun. The other way is oven baked. Oven baked are a bit firmer but still ideal for any dish. If you are going to be freezing the meatballs for later use, oven baked is the way to go. You can simply simmer them in some sauce to thaw them and heat them up.

Two important points in making awesome meatballs, use medium ground beef (not lean or extra lean). The fatty medium ground beef makes a more tender meatball regardless of cooking method. Second, don’t forget the binder! Simply using eggs as the binding agent isn’t enough.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 Lb (1/2 Kg) medium ground beef
  • 1/4 cup Half & Half cream
  • 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 pkg Onion soup mix
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Yellow onion (cooking onion is fine if you don’t have any yellow onion).

meatballs_6Medium ground beef makes better meatballs than Lean or Extra Lean.

 

Directions

1.) Make the Binder: Mix together 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs and 1/2 pkg Onion soup mix. Stir in 1/4 cup Half & Half until thoroughly combined and set aside.

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meatballs_3aThe binder will thicken and become like a paste as the breadcrumbs absorb the cream.

 

2.) In a small bowl whisk together the egg, salt, pepper, Parmesan and any other green spices you may want to add.

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3.) Add the egg mixture to the ground beef and mix thoroughly with your hands. A spoon simply won’t cut it, it doesn’t blend as well as your hands do. If you don’t like the squishy mixture in your fingers, well, toughen up!

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4.) Add the onions and soaked binder to the meat mixture and mix with your hands.

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5.) Use your hands to pick up a bit of the mixture and roll it into a ball between your palms. I’ve seen meatballers in the store, little devices that scoop out just the right amount. Codswallop I say!! Use your hands, make them imperfectly sized but rolled together perfectly by you!

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meatballs_10Make them any size you want but about 1 inch diameter is perfect for your pasta with a sauce.

 

Cooking in the Oven

Place a sheet of tin foil shiny side down on a cookie sheet or shallow baking pan. Place the meatballs on the foil so they are not touching. Do not press them down. I used to cook these at 400 degrees Fahrenheit but I like to cook them slower, at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. These should take, depending on your stove, 25 to 35 minutes. You really, really do need to invest in an instant read thermometer and let that judge when they are done. For ground beef, the meatballs are done when a center read is 165 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. In the picture below, I actually over cooked these slightly as I was on the phone and didn’t get to them fast enough. Even slightly overdone, they were still delicious though.

meatballs_11Bake on the middle rack of the oven.

meatballs_14Really, use an instant read meat thermometer! Temperature must be 165 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

meatballs_15Mmmmm…..

 

Cooking in a Sauce

Bring your sauce to a boil then reduce it to a simmer. Add in your fresh meatballs. You need to simmer them for about 30 minutes, a bit longer if you prefer but not too much longer or they will start to toughen up. In the images below, I use one recipe (not doubled) of my Easy Tomato Sauce. It continues to reduce as the meat balls cook leaving a very thick and flavour packed topping for the pasta.

meatballs_12With one recipe of the Easy Tomato Sauce, I’m able to add about a dozen meatballs. This is enough for two servings. Double the Tomato sauce recipe to add more meatballs.

meatballs_13Really, these only need about 30-35 minutes to be completely cooked in the sauce.

 

Cooking the Spaghetti

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The amount you see in my hand is enough for two servings. Just right for one serving for two people. Bring some water with a bit of salt and Olive Oil to a boil. Add the pasta. Stir constantly and slowly for the first couple minutes to make sure the pasta does not stick together (that’s why we add the Olive Oil). Read the package the pasta came in to see how long to cook it Al Dente. As most cooking times are slightly overstated, that amount of time will please everyone. When cooked, turn the pot into a collander and then quickly rinse with a small amount of cold water to halt the cooking process (pasta will continue to cook from it’s own heat if you don’t).

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Serve in a bowl, top with sauce and meatballs and Voila…the whole gang loves ya!

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Bon Appetite!

 

Silky Omelette

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You’ve had omelettes that were thin, overcooked and dry. Hardly makes you want another one but it’s something that we keep coming back to. A well done omelette can be breakfast, lunch or dinner. Dress it up with some appropriate sides and the meal is complete.

The secret to a great omelette is using cream instead of milk AND not using the highest heat setting on the stove. As well, always make a three egg omelette as two egg omelettes don’t provide enough volume for the frying pan and often burn or are tough.

Eggs don’t take a lot of heat to cook but it does have to be consistent and thorough. They need to be left on the stove long enough that none of the white is in liquid form any more. There are few things that will make you as sick as undercooked egg, to the point of hospitalization (as I found out on a trip to Turkey).

However, if you want a silky smooth and fluffy omelette, follow my directions below. The end result relies not only on your patience at the stove, but also on the type of cream you use.

  • Milk: Blech…makes a grosse omelette. Don’t bother.
  • Half & Half is almost always a perfectly form result, smooth but not too bulky.
  • Table cream (18%) a bit more volume but harder to keep in shape.
  • Heavy cream (35% – my favourite) is very fluffy, silky smooth and almost impossible to keep in a round circle.
  • Soy Milk: Doesn’t make the greatest omelette but will do the job for those who are lactose intolerant.

Choosing your frying pan is about experience based on your stove and your skill. I have four frying pans in my kitchen and there is only one of them that I would ever use to make an omelette in. It’s the perfect size, it’s old and natty looking and it always turns out awesome omelettes.

Making a Three Egg Omelette

1.) In a small mixing bowl, add three eggs and 1 Tbsp of your cream of choice.

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2.) Use a whisk or a fork to whip the eggs and cream together until smooth and the clear egg-white blobs are all broken up. Don’t worry about air bubbles, they come out in the cooking.

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3.) Put some vegetable oil or Canola oil in the frying pan and heat it before putting in the egg mix. When heated, lift the pan and move from side to side to evenly distribute the oil then pour in the egg mixture. Use a high heat to bring the oil to temperature then turn the heat down to medium high or slightly less depending on your stove.

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4.) The trick: We want an evenly cooked omelette with just a bit of browning, not burning. As you see the bottom start to go opaque you begin the process of draining the omelette. Use your spatula to push back a small part of the omelette and tilt the pan. The still liquid part rushes in to fill the place. Do this in several places around the pan and do it as many times as you need to to get the liquid part of the omelette onto the pan surface and cooking, without pooling/congealing in the centre. As the omelette cooks, air pockets form and bubble up. Use the corner of your spatula to break the air bubbles as they form.

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5.) When the liquid has all taken form and is no longer running when you tilt the pan. It’s now time to flip the omelette. The broader your spatula the easier this is. Gently work the spatula under one side and wiggle it back and forth underneath to get past the centre point. In one quick motion lift and flip the omelette. You may have to adjust it a bit with the spatula ones it flips over, if it bunches up a bit.

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6.) Now that it’s flipped, add on some cheese, onions, mushrooms, whatever you want. Allow it to cook for only two or three minutes on the second side. Then with the spatula, flip up one side and back over the stuff you added to make a half moon. Quickly transfer to a plate and enjoy!

omellette_1Plain omelette, 35% cream, nothing added except some grated Padano.

 

Note: if you want to add green onions, onions, etc. to the mix before putting it in the pan, then sautee these items first. They don’t cook that much when mixed in with the omelette. You can add grated cheese to your omelette mixture as well but I find the taste is richer if you add the cheese after flipping the omelette. Large additions such as mushrooms, leeks, etd. should definitely go on after the flip and become sandwiched in the half moon shape.

Bon Appetite!

 

Easy Roux Gumbo

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Doesn’t it look good? It tastes great! Especially when you take the time to make yourself something so rich, tasty and filling.

There are basically three kinds of gumbo, differentiated by how they are thickened (not by the contents). There is the traditional Okra gumbo, thickened by the addition of cut up okra late in the cooking process. There is a Roux gumbo, thickened by a Dark roux (there are four kinds of Roux: White, Blond, Brown and Dark). The third type, the most commonly known probably, if the File Gumbo (pronounced Fee-Lay). The File Gumbo is thickened by adding in File powder just as the pot is taken off the heat, stirred in and allowed to sit for a few minutes. File powder can also be served in a dish and added to the bowl by your guest.

Today I’m going to show you the method of making a Roux Gumbo (Okra wasn’t available and I’m out of File powder). Roux gumbo takes some extra effort but only a bit extra effort. the results is, as stated, delicious!

As with a lot of Cajun cooking, I typically use the Cajun Trinity (green pepper, onion, celery) which is a variant of Mirepoix (celery, onion, carrot) for the creole audience. In the photos on this post, I was out of celery so I omitted it. It still tasted awesome. If you were to get this dish down in the South, it would be made with Andouille sausage. As that is not available in this neck of the woods, I use hot Italian sausage (store made) and it tasted just as good.

 

Ingredients

  • 4 Hot Italian Sausage, cut in moderate sized pieces
  • 2 Skinless, boneless, chicken breasts cut in moderate sized pieces.
  • One green pepper, diced
  • One medium sized cooking onion, diced (yellow onions are better if you can get them)
  • One stalk of celery, sliced
  • 3 Cups thick sliced mushrooms
  • 28oz can of Diced Tomatoes
  • 28oz tap water
  • 1 small can of Tomato paste.
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • Long grain rice and 1 Tbsp butter to cook and serve the gumbo over.

For the Roux

  • 1/4 cup all purpose white flour, sifted
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (do not use Olive oil, sunflower oil or peanut oil)

 

Directions

1.) Cut up the onion, green pepper and celery. Place the Tbsp of Canola oil in a frying pan and add the Trinity. Cook until almost fully cooked, not quite all the way.

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2.) Cut up the Sausage and the Chicken into moderately large pieces. Place them in your large dutch oven or large non-stick pot.

easygumbo_2Hot Italian sausage, store made, used in place of Andouille sausage

 

easygumbo_3Skinless, boneless, chicken breasts cut up but not too small. I trim the fat from the pieces but throw the fat in the pot to cook with the gumbo.

 

3.) Add the sauteed Trinity, diced tomatoes, water, mushrooms, sausage and chicken to your large dutch oven

easygumbo_5I used packaged sliced mushrooms. Sometimes I’m lazy!

easygumbo_7This recipe makes a LOT of gumbo. Make sure you use a pot large enough.

4.) Bring to a boil then quickly turn down to a simmer. After the pot simmers for 15 minutes, stir in (carefully so you don’t spill) one small can of tomato paste.

5.) As you put in the Tomato paste, you should begin making the Dark Roux (as it takes about 15 minutes to make it). Use vegetable oil for this as no other oil will make the Roux properly (though Canola comes close but definitely not Olive!). The cooking time is far too long to make Dark Roux with butter.

Add 1/4 cup of Vegetable Oil to a non-stick sauce pan and bring to temperature. Add in the 1/4 cup flour and begin stirring. You need to be at the pot and stirring constantly. You cannot let it sit still for more than 2-3 seconds otherwise it will start to burn. Stir constantly but carefully. A hint to keep your hands from being burned by the oil if you splash it is to wrap your hand holding the stirring spoon with a tea towel. Stir constantly, but not too fast. If you stir too fast the roux cooks slower and you will splash the hot oil on yourself!

The dark roux takes about 15 minutes or a bit more to cook properly. It’s a lot of work but it is worth it. It thickens the gumbo perfectly (better than Okra or File in my own opinion).

easygumbo_8This is the roux just after the flour has been added and blended.

easygumbo_9This is the roux after ten minutes of cooking (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of it finished at 15 minutes).

6.) Add the finished roux to the pot of gumbo and stir to blend it thoroughly. Allow the gumbo to simmer for 2 or 3 more minutes then remove it from the heat and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

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Making the rice

For years I would fret and fuss over the making of rice. I followed directions on the bags and boxes like a doctoral candidate. I have gone through three different rice makers (Black & Decker was the best, and it was a steamer too). How do you get just the exactly right amount of water? However, once you discover the secret to cooking long grain rice, you can get rid of the rice makers and the stress and worry. The only thing you DO need to do is cook up a test pot as the time can vary slightly depending on your elevation and whether you are using white or brown.

It takes me ten minutes to cook long grain rice perfectly and about twenty-five minutes to cook long grain brown rice.

Put a small pan with three cups of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Add in 1 cup of long grain rice and 1 Tbsp of butter and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook until it’s tender (test it by chewing a small amount from the tip of your stirring spoon!!).

Turn out the rice into a kitchen strainer and allow the excess water to drain off. This leaves you with perfectly cooked rice, it’s sticky, the way I like it. You don’t have to fret about how much water because you start by using too much water. If you don’t like it sticky, rinse it with a small amount of hot water.

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After your gumbo has rested for thirty minutes, put some rice in a bowl and spoon the gumbo over top of it. Serve it with some hot toasted garlic bread and this rib sticker will satisfy the hungriest of guests.

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Bon Appetite!

 

 

Easy Tomato Sauce, Pasta Ready!

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My friend Monica talked me into making my own tomato sauce. Blanch and peel the tomatoes, add to a pot and cook with a few simple spices until done. Then I discovered the equally easy Marcella Hazan 4 Ingredient Tomatoe Sauce. This little dish of heaven is ready, on it’s own, to dress up your pasta. I also use it with my Spaghetti and Meatballs. This sauce, recounted below, is super easy and only takes about 45 minutes using canned tomatoes.

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Ingredients

  • 28 oz. can of cooked Tomatoes (no garlic, no spices, just plain tomatoes, whole or diced).
  • 5 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Yellow onion, peeled and cut in half (do NOT chop, slice or dice!)
  • 1/4 tsp Salt.

 

Directions

1.) Drain the can of Tomatoes and place in your sauce pan.

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2.) Use your spoon to break up the tomatoes in the pan as much as you can. They will break down further while they are cooking.

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3.) Add in the onion, butter and salt. Bring to a boil then quickly reduce to a simmer.

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4.) Every five minutes or so, use your spoon to press the tomatoes against the side of the pan to break them up. Simmer for 45 minutes and then remove from the heat, removing the onion halves. Voila. Tout Finis.

If I’m having a proper dinner the next day, I’ll save the onion halves and then re-heat them to serve as a garnish (the onions are delicious cooked in this sauce).

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Bon Appetite!

Madeleines

madeleine_1Little cakes of lemony heaven!

“And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom , my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane.” ~ Marcel Proust, (1913-1927) in Rememberance of Things Past, Vol 1: Swann’s Way

I had a memory of these little bits of lemony heaven from my childhood. I can’t remember who made them or where I had them but the memory of them was an old one. Last year I decided to finally make them myself. I had tried store bought ones but they simply didn’t add up to the memory. The ones I made myself do honour that memory and perhaps, might even be a bit better.

Madeleines are made using a very specific pan, the Madeleine pan (see pics below). You can get two types, large and small (or more properly, petite). The Madeleine and Petite Madeleine are often called cookies but they aren’t cookies. They are cakes and perfect for dipping in your tea. I enjoy them plain when making a batch for myself but when making to take to work or a gathering, I dust them with icing sugar which is the more western way of serving them.

Madeleines are super easy to make, just watch the cooking time to be exactly as stated below. This recipe makes exactly twenty-four cakes and requires two Madeleine pans to cook at once (or cook in two batches if you only have one pan). You can get a Madeleine pan at any specialty kitchen shop.

 

Ingredients

  • 4 oz stick of butter plus 3 Tbsp butter divided
  • 1 Cup all-purpose flour plus 1 Tbsp divided
  • 2/3 Cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • Pinch of salt (1/8 tsp)
  • Juice of one medium lemon, hand squeezed. If you use a squeezer then you only need 1 Tbsp.
  • Zest of one whole lemon
  • Powdered sugar to dust if desired.

 

Directions

1.) Melt the butter in a saucepan, don’t burn it! When melted set aside. Place 3 Tbsp of the butter in a small bowl.

2.) Zest the lemon by rubbing it on the smallest teeth of a hand grater. Keep turning it until you have zested the whole surface. Once done, cut it in half and hand squeeze the lemon juice. This is why my Madeleines are so much better than others, I overload the lemon.

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2.) In a bowl, whisk together the flour and sugar.

3.) In another bowl, whisk 2 eggs, vanilla, salt, lemon juice and lemon zest until frothy.

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4.) Add the wet egg/lemon mix to the dry flour mix. Stir until just combined.

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5.) Add the 4oz. melted butter and stir until well blended but do not over mix.

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6.) Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge for at least an hour, or overnight. Seriously, you can’t make Madeleine’s unless the batter has chilled and set firm enough to be handled.

7.) Add 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour to the reserved 3 Tbsp of melted butter, stir to combine well. Using a pastry brush, brush the shells of both Madeleine pans.

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Place the coated Madeleine pans in the freezer. Freezing the Madeleine pans give the finished Madeleine’s the traditional bump on the backside of the cake. This is why I have two pans. I can cook them at the same time and not do two batches after having to stop and re-coat/re-freeze a single pan.

 

8.) When you are ready to make the Madeleine’s, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Take one pan at a time out of the freezer and spoon the mixture into the shells. This recipe makes twenty-four madeleines so judge the amount you use by the pictures below (I can’t give you an exact measure, I always just eyeball it but I would guess it’s just a little bit less than a Tbsp).

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9.) Place the pans in the oven at the same time and bake for exactly 14 minutes. Not 13 minutes, not 15 minutes, 14 minutes exactly or they simply won’t be perfect.

madeleine_10When baking, they look like and egg drop treat, don’t be alarmed!

10.) When cooked, remove from the oven and use the tip of a butter knife to loosen the cake and let it slide out onto a cooling rack. They should sit for about half an hour before starting to enjoy them. When you do enjoy them, there is no such thing as just one! If you want to dust your Madeleine with icing sugar, then use a sugar shaker if you have it or simply put a small amount in a kitchen strainer and gently shake it over the cakes.

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Bon Appetite!

Banana Bread

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This is a treat that almost everyone loves but is so easy to make it go wrong. Don’t hesitate, just be careful about proportions, timing and using a cake tester to see if it’s done! On both sides!

Ingredients

  • Six over-ripe bananas (make sure they have not gone moldy, should yield roughly 2-1/4 cups or a bit more)
  • 2 Cups all pupose flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs beaten

Instructions

1.) Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and lightly grease a 9×5 loaf pan.

2.) Peel the bananas and place in a bowl, break them up and then use a potatoe masher or large fork to mash them into a creamy pulp.

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3.)  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

4.) In another bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar.

5.) Stir in the eggs and mashed banana until well blended.

6.) Stir banana mixture into the flour mixture until evenly distributed. Do not over mix!

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7.) Bake in the preheated oven for 65 minutes. At the 60 minute mark, pull out the loaf and use a cake tester or tooth pick on both the top and bottom in a few different places. If any of the mix comes out on the toothpick/caketester then put it back in the pan and back in the oven for the final five minutes. When you take it out again, test it again. Add back for five more minutes if absolutely necessary. The timing of the cooking of banana bread is where the weak point is. Your first loaf may not turn out perfectly (mine didn’t) but persevere. This is one of those things it’s well worth learning to make right. Remember too, every stove is slightly different!

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8.) Turn it out onto a cooling rack and let it rest for at least an hour before cutting and serving. This banana bread actually tastes even better the next day!

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Bon Appetite!

 

 

 

 

Fireside Lentil Stew

firesidelentilstew

 

This is a crowd pleaser and a rib-sticker. Great for damp wet days, snowy winter nights and something that will fill you up and satisfy you. I’ve been making this recipe for years and slowly improving it over time.

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup dry red lentils
  • 1 Cup dry green lentils
  • 1 Cup dry split peas
  • 1 Lg Russet potatoe, diced
  • 1/2 Tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 Roasted Red Peppers, diced
  • 24 Roasted Grape Tomatoes
  • 1/2 Lb Bacon, cut small and pulled apart, not fried

 

Directions

1.) Combine all the ingredients except the Bacon, Roasted Red Peppers and Roasted Grape Tomatoes in a large dutch oven or large non-stick pot. Add in eight cups of water. Cover the pot, bring to a boil then reduce immediately to a simmer.

2.) After 15 minutes of simmering, add in the Roasted Red Peppers, Roasted Grape Tomatoes and the Bacon. Add in two more cups of water.

3.) Return to a boil then immediately to a simmer. Allow to simmer for another 30 minutes (check every ten minutes to see if more water is needed). Remove from the heat and let sit for 20 minutes before serving.

firesidelentilstew2

 

 

Bon Appetite!

 

Sweet Whiskey Banana Topping

bananatop4

This is O-M-G good! I created it one night when I wanted ice cream but wanted it to be something extra good. I had French Vanilla ice cream in the fridge and that made me think of Rum N’ Raisin ice cream. However, I had a hankering for the taste of Bananas.

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas fork mashed
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp jack Daniels
  • 2 heaping teaspoons Demerara sugar
  • 1 handful golden raisins
  • 1 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp butter cold

 

Directions

bananatop11.) Fork mash two overripe or ripe bananas in a bowl

 

bananatop22.) Add in all ingredients except the cream and butter. Stir to combine. Transfer to a small non-stick pan.

 

bananatop33.) Set the pan on medium high heat and slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When it starts to bubble a bit, add in the cream and the butter. Continue to stir constantly until it has boiled for one minute beyond the butter melting. You want it to hard boil but you also want the continuous stirring to break the boil so that it is not flying everywhere. Now, this is important, remove from the heat and let it sit and cool for at least 30 minutes before doing anything with it!!!!

 

bananatop4

I love this spooned over Vanilla or even better, French Vanilla ice cream. If it’s still warm, it melts the icecream and you get this cold and warm creamy gooey heavenly delight.

I also refrigerate this up to a few days and enjoy in the mornings on toast.

bananatop5

 

Bon Appetite!

 

Roasted Grape Tomatoes

roastgrapetomatoes5You may be able to tell I love the taste of things roasted in an oven. This is an excellent complement to the Roasted Red Peppers when adding to a stew or soup. I’ve also done this up and tossed them with green spices to enjoy on toast. I use Grape tomatoes but you could use Cherry tomatoes although they will probably cook a lot quicker.

 

Directions

roastgrapetomatoes11.) Wash and half the grape tomoatoes (24 tomatoes shown in picture above).

 

roastgrapetomatoes22.) Toss them in a bowl with sea salt (1/2 teaspoon per dozen grape tomatoes). Let them rest for at least 15 minutes.

 

roastgrapetomatoes33.) Line a baking pan with foil, shiny side up. Spread out the tomatoes evenly in the dish.

 

roastgrapetomatoes4

4.) Place under the broiler in the oven until done. This batch in an electric oven set to Broil at 500 degrees Farenheit took 12 minutes. Keep an eye on yours, as soon as you start to see any blackening, they are done.

 

roastgrapetomatoes55.) Remove from the oven and cool on the stove top. Transfer to an airtight container. They will last in the fridge a few days if necessary.

 

Bon Appetite!

 

 

 

Roasted Red Peppers

roastedredpeppers1

I’m not a fan of Red Pepper cut up and cooked in my dishes but I AM a fan of Roasted Red Peppers….on their own or in soups/stews/whatever! There is something so satisfying about this taste that is so simple to get.

Ingredients

  • Red Peppers
  • Brown Paper Bags

Directions

roastedredpeppers31.) Half and Seed the Red Peppers. Make sure you get that white bit as well as all the seeds out of it.

 

roastedredpeppers42.) Place the halves cut side down on a cookie sheet lined with tinfoil. Lay the tinfoil shiny side up.

 

roastedredpeppers5

3.) Place under the broiler on the top rack level of the oven. Alternatively, you could put them cut side up on a BBQ.

 

roastedredpeppers64.) The length of time will depend a lot on the BBQ or in the oven, whether it’s electric or gas, size of the Peppers, etc. This batch took me 20 minutes in an electric oven. I’ve done it in as little as 8 minutes in a gas oven. Rather than time them, you need to keep a frequent eye on them. Check them every minute or so. In the picture above, these are done the way I like them. You could let them blacken a little bit more than this though and the flavour would be even richer. Just remember that there is a difference between blackened and burnt!

 

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roastedredpeppers85.) Place the red peppers in a brown paper bag and then let them sit on the counter for 30 minutes. Don’t use a plastic bag or an airtight container.

 

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roastedredpeppers106.) Finger peel the Red Peppers. Most of it will just pinch/rub right off. Around the edges it’s harder to get off. Remove what you can. If the skin is on tight, leave it. We are just removing the dead skin that was charred and boiled away while cooking (Yes, the skin boils from the inside when making these). Once peeled, cut them or you can store them whole. I’ve only had these around for 2 or 3 days (and then they all get eaten) but you should be able to store these 4 or 5 days. Add them to soups or stews or enjoy them on crackers/toast points. If I’m not putting them in a stew or soup, I like to store them with some Feta cheese (Canadian Feta, it’s milder) and Olive Oil.

roastedredpeppers2

 

Bon Appetite!

 

 

Low Fat French Fries

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I love French Fries, don’t you? There are problems with making fries at home. The hot grease splattering on you, the clean up of the splatters on the counter afterwards, you have to have someone stand guard around kids and dogs that none come rushing into the kitchen while you are cooking with the hot grease, the trans fats that the fries are ladden with and lets not forget the calories!

Okay, I’m a guy, most of those things aren’t supposed to concern me…but they do….or should I say, they did. That all stopped when I bought a T-Fal Actifry. It uses hot air and one Tbsp of oil to cook up a big mess of fries. I’m not usually into promoting products but in this case, it’s worth it. I’ve cooked fresh cut French Fries in this but I’ve also cooked frozen fries and breakfast sausage in it as well. There is an entire website committed to what you can cook up in this baby.

ff_sausageStore made breakfast sausage, cooked perfectly after only 20 minutes in the Actifry.

 

Here is the quick and dirty on how to make low fat delicious French Fries:

ff2Peel and quarter one or two large Russet potatoes.

ff3Use a French Fry cutter to quickly cut perfect fries. You can also cut them by hand almost as perfectly.

 

ff4Place the French Fries in the Actifry with one Tbsp of Canola oil. It even comes with it’s own measuring spoon.

 

ff1Turn it on and set the timer for 25 minutes. Remember that when the timer is done, it dings. It does NOT turn off the cooker.

ff5If you like your French Fries a bit darker or crispier, then put it back on for five more minutes. Follow the included directions for frozen French Fries. You can cook up a package of unfrozen breakfast sausage in about 20-25 minutes or from frozen in 30-40 minutes.

ff6

Bon Appetite!

Roast Turkey

roastturkey1

Roasting a turkey can be one of the most stressful jobs you take on in the kitchen when company is coming. It is a large investment and can so easily go terribly wrong. I remember a few years ago cooking a fresh turkey according to the directions for a frozen turkey. Shoe leather. Totally wasted. Couldn’t even get a single bit out of it. That made me determined to cook a perfect turkey and for the last three years, that is what I have done, perfect Turkey every time. Follow my directions here and you won’t go wrong.

I’m going to split this post into three parts, the Turkey, the Stuffing and the Gravy. The Stuffing is an integral part of this dinner favourite so it needs to be done first.

 

THE STUFFING

roastturkey2

 

There are many recipes for stuffing out there, some quite complicated but also quite nice. I’ve tried a few of them. However, in the end, I always come back to my Mom’s own recipe for stuffing. It was the one I grew up with and the one I love to this day. It’s also really, really easy.

Stuffing Ingredients

These instructions give you enough stuffing for a 12 to 14 pound bird. Increase the ingredients for a larger fowl.

  • One loaf of white bread
  • 1 tsp Poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 1/4 to 1/2 Cup warm water

roastturkey_stuffing2

Stuffing Directions

1.) Finger tear the loaf of white bread into a large bowl. Tear into small pieces but not too small.

roastturkey_stuffing1

2.) Chop the small onion.

3.) Add the onion, Poultry seasoning and cumin seeds to the bread and toss with your hand to evenly distribute things.

4.) Add the water a bit at a time, tossing with your hands. You want the bread slightly moist, not sodden.

5.) Stuff the stuffing (hence the name) into the neck cavity of the Turkey as well as the ‘arse end cavity. Pack it in tightly but don’t go crazy.

roastturkey_stuffing3a

Neck cavity stuffed

 

roastturkey_stuffing3b

‘Arse end cavity stuffed, with skin flap closed over it

6.) Cover the exposed stuffing in the neck cavity with a piece of tinfoil, covering only the stuffing and not the skin of the bird.

If you have stuffing left over, don’t let it go to waste. You can cook it up on it’s own, alongside the bird if your oven is big enough. Oddly enough, this is almost the same way I make stuffing for Newfie Fries (will post someday soon).

Pan Stuffing

roastturkey_stuffing4

Mix the remaining butter rub (see below) with the remaining stuffing.

roastturkey_stuffing5

Place it in a small bread pan or similar, distributed evenly.

roastturkey_stuffing6

Cover it with a piece of tin foil.

roastturkey_stuffing7

Bake at same temperature as the Turkey for 30 minutes. Then remove the tinfoil and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven and enjoy.

THE TURKEY

From what I have read, the rule of thumb for Turkey is 1.5 pounds per person. In the pictures in this post I used an 11 pound Turkey and it would have been just about right for six people, validating the rule of thumb. However, I’m a single guy so…. lot’s of left overs….turkey for days!!

roastturkey3

The one place you will most definitely go wrong with your Turkey is either the temperature or the length of time in the oven. Use the chart with the turkey as a guideline only, done-ness MUST be tested with a meat thermometer. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking differently. Those little popup thingys are nice as a guide but again, use a meat thermometer. Remember as well, the length of time to cook will be different for a Turkey with stuffing from a Turkey without stuffing.

What temperature to cook the Turkey at?

Many instructions will give you temperatures from 350 degrees up to 425 degrees. However, this cooks the Turkey fast and can make it a bit tough and dried out. As with all meats, I propose low and slow is the way to go. Take longer to cook it at a lower heat for a much better final product. The minimum safe cooking temperature for Turkey is 325 degrees so that’s that I cook my Turkey at.

Temperatures for a cooked turkey (How long to cook the Turkey):

  • A meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast should be 180 degrees with stuffing (fowl temp goes higher as the stuffing catches up)
  • A meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast should be minimum 165 degrees without the stuffing.
  • A meat thermometer in the center of the stuffing should be minimum 165 degrees.

Make sure you take the measurement of both the Turkey AND the Stuffing. As I said above, a Turkey that is internally 165 degrees will not yet have the stuffing at 165 degrees, therefore the turkey will be higher. To prevent the risk of drying out the Turkey, start basting it every 20 minutes after the first two hours.

In the pictures for this post, the guide on the packaging called for 3:00 Hours to 3:15 hours. However, the internal temperatures reached 180 in the bird and 165 in the stuffing at the 2:30 hours mark. So it is important that you start testing the temperature 45 minutes or so before what you have calculated the cooking time to be. Just open the oven, stick in the thermometer in the thickest part of the breast and when the needle stops moving, that is your temperature. Make sure the end of the thermometer is in the CENTER of the breast, don’t push it in further or you won’t get the correct temperature.

meat_thermometer1

What kind of pan should I use?

Always use a low cut pan OR a pan that does NOT touch the sides of the Turkey. In the two pictures below, the black roasting pan is not acceptable as it closes in the Turkey too much and rubs up against the sides of it. In the second picture, the Turkey is in a low sided roasting pan that is just the right size for this particular bird. If you don’t have the right sized pan, you can buy a cheap foil roasting pan at the grocery store for about $6.00. I prefer to use one of my non-stick baking pans for easier clean up. When this Turkey was cooked I used a relatively new non-stick pan that I had only had a couple of months. The Turkey lifted right out of it without any part of it sticking to the pan.

roastturkey4

This pan is too small because of the high sides

roastturkey5

This pan is just right because of the low sides

Prepping the Turkey for cooking

Before you unwrap the Turkey, the first thing you need to do is wash your sink with soap and hot water then rinse it with hot water. Make sure the sink is clean before you unwrap the Turkey in it.

Next, once unwrapped, remove the neck and and the liver/giblet package. It’s in there, maybe hiding in the ‘arse end cavity. Take them out and set them aside (or throw them out, whatever).

roastturkey6

Now rinse the Turkey thoroughly on the outside and on the inside. When you are done, pat dry the Turkey (inside and out) with paper towel. Make sure you don’t leave any bits of paper towel behind.

roastturkey7

Now place the Turkey in your pan and stuff it. Don’t overstuff it or pack it in too tight. It will take the stuffing too long to cook and dry out the Turkey if you do. Don’t forget to stuff the ‘arse end as well, pulling the skin flap down over it afterwards.

roastturkey_stuffing3a

Now prepare the butter rub. What’s that? Butter rub? Were you expecting that? This is one of those secrets that you will jealously guard from your friends and family when the inquire how you go the Turkey so perfect!

In a small bowl combine about 1 Tblp of butter with some sea salt.

roastturkey_rub1

roastturkey_rub2

Once mixed, HAND RUB the butter/salt mixture over every exposed part of the Turkey (not the bottom part on the pan). Rub it into the skin on the breast, legs and wings.

roastturkey_rub3

Once that is done, cover the exposed stuffing with tinfoil and you are ready to put the bird in the oven.

roastturkey8

Bake the Turkey according to the guidelines given above for size and temperature. Remember to start basting it after the two hour mark, every twenty minutes. Remember to start testing the internal temperature about 45 minutes to an hour before the time you THINK it should be done. Always rely on the internal temperature for both the Turkey and the Stuffing to indicate done-ness. Make sure you take the temperature correctly.

roastturkey2

Voila!

roastturkey1

One perfect Turkey!

THE GRAVY

There are different methods of making gravy. I’m going to outline the process I use for a simple pan gravy, use your judgement as you are doing it about making changes. Once you understand the concepts here, you will be better equipped to do that. The first time I made gravy myself was at a girlfriends parents place when I was 30. I had never done it before but I had watched my Mom do it for years. It turned out so good that I became the official gravy maker at her parents house for the few years that we were together.

The pefect gravy comes from four things:

  1. Pan juices
  2. A water/flour mix (basically it’s paper-mache glue)
  3. A slow rolling boil
  4. Patience

If there are pan juices, great. If there are bits of the bird stuck to the pan (even if overcooked) and just a bit of juice, no problem. Just add half a cup of water.

Bring the juice/water to a low boil, scrapping the bottom of the pan to loosen up some of the stuck on bits (which releases fatty oils and flavour).

roastturkey_gravy3

 

As pan juice/bit of water is coming to a slow boil, in a separate measuring cup or bowl add one cup of slightly warm (not hot) water and 1 Tbsp of all purpose flour. Use a whisk or a fork to whisk the mixture together with NO clumps.

roastturkey_gravy1

roastturkey_gravy2

 

Once the pan on the stove top starts to boil, add the water/flour mixture a little bit at a time (about 1 Tbsp at a time) and use a whisk to rapidly whisk the mixture in the pan. If you have a foil pan or an expensive non-stick pan, you may wish to transfer the oil/juice/drippings to another pot to make this but if you do, the flavour will suffer. As you whisk in the water/flour mix allow the pan juices to come to a low rolling boil (not a hard boil)… and keep whisking. If you allow it to sit still more than a few seconds, you risk burning the gravy.

roastturkey_gravy4

Once it has reached the colour and consistency you want, remove the pan from the heat and immediately pour it through a kitchen strainer into a serving dish. Pouring it through the strainer removes any lumps or bits of scrapings, leaving a smooth tasty gravy. You may need to coax the gravy through the strainer with a spoon if it is particularly thick. Allow the gravy to sit for a few minutes and then spoon off any grease that rises to the top.

 

roastturkey9

Bon Appetite!

Cheeseburger Soup

cbsoup6Cheeseburger soup, a manly recipe!

This soup has a mild taste but it is a delicous rib-sticker, great for cold wet or snowy days. You can serve this with a garnish of chopped green onions or maybe some sauteed mushrooms on the side to spoon on top of your bowl. I like mine with some extra bacons bits fried up crunchy and a dollop of sour creme. I like mine a bit thinner so that it freezes better but I’ll show you in the recipe where to reduce the water so that it is a much thicker treat.

Ingredients

  • 1 Lb ground beef
  • 1/2 Lb bacon cut into one inch pieces
  • 3/4 Cup diced celery
  • 3/4 Cup shredded carrots
  • 3/4 Cup chopped onion
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 4 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 7 Cups chicken broth (only 3 cups for a much thicker stew). You could use beef broth but I’ve never tried it.
  • 4 Cups peeled and diced potatoes
  • 1/4 Cup all purpose flour
  • 2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 Cup Half & Half creme
  • 1/2 Cup Heavy creme
  • 3/4 tsp fine seasalt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (more to taste)
  • 1/4 Cup sour creme

 

Directions

1.) Brown the ground beef and bacon in the same pan at the same time. Make sure you pull apart the pieces of bacon before adding them to the pan (do it before turning the heat on under the pan!). Set aside.

cbsoup1

Ground beef and bacon cooked together…. man-heaven?

 

2.) In a dutch oven or large non-stick pot, use 1 Tbsp butter to saute the onion, carrot, celery, basil and parsley flakes until tender. Add a bit more butter if you need to so that these don’t burn.

cbsoup7

 

3.) To the sauteed vegetables, add the broth, potatoes, ground beef and bacon and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender. You will notice a yellow scum forming on top of the pot as it boils. Don’t worry about it. It goes away on it’s own as the pot cooks. For the broth I use sachets of Oxo broth mix, according to the directions. I don’t have the patience to make real chicken broth 🙂

cbsoup2

 

4.) In a small pan melt the remaining 3 Tbsp butter and add the all purpose flour. Doing this makes a “roux” or a thickener. With only three cups of the broth you will see that this thickens it quite nicely into a rich stew. Using seven cups of broth, it doesn’t thicken it that much but does give the soup the texture of a light/thin veloute. Once the roux is ready (brown, not burned) stir it into the soup.

cbsoup4The roux is almost ready

 

cbsoup5Soup pot after adding the roux

5.) Stir in the cheese, Half & Half, Heavy creme, salt and pepper. Cook until the cheese is melted.

cbsoup3

6.) Remove from the heat and let it sit for a few minutes, then stir in the sour creme. Serve and enjoy!

NOTE: I make up a big pot of this, have a bowl and freeze the rest in portions. You can freeze it for up to a month. If you are going to freeze it, I recommend that you make this soup thinner, using the 7 cups of broth instead of the 3 cups of broth.

cbsoup6

Bon Appetite!

Red Velvet Muffins

redvelvet_bigmuffin2

Red velvet muffins have gained popularity because of their unique taste and velvety smoothness. There is no magic involved, just a great recipe and some patience. The recipe below makes 24 muffins, 50 mini-muffins or an 8″ three layer cake.

Red Velvet cake recipe originally used beets to get the red colouring and to help the cake retain moisture. Since the Great Depression, recipe’s have often and more commonly used red food colouring. I’ve never tried the recipe with beets…. yet.

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups (365g) all-purpose flour (whisk flour before measuring)
  • 1/4 cup (25g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups (403g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 oz liquid red food coloring
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp vinegar

Directions: The Dry Mixture

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

1.) In a mixing bowl add flour, baking soda and salt. Sift in the Cocoa powder. Sifting the cocoa powder in is VERY important. If you don’t have a sifter, borrow or buy one. If you don’t sift the Cocoa powder, it remains too heavy and will settle to the bottom of the muffins/cake as they are cooking. Make sure you sift the in the Cocoa powder!

Whisk the dry mixture together until well combined and the Cocoa is evenly distributed.

 

redvelvet1

Directions: The Wet Mixture

2.) In another mixing bowl, add the butter and sugar and with an electric mixer blend together until pale and fluffy.

3.) Mix in the vegetable oil until combined.

redvelvet2

4.) Mix in the three eggs one at a time. After adding each egg, blend until just combined. Then add the two egg yolks and blend until combined.

5.) Add the food coloring. Food coloring most often comes in one ounce (30 ml) plastic bottles. Add the whole bottle. Blend until evenly distributed. Start with the lowest setting on your hand blender and be careful which way you tilt the blades. This stuff will fly all over the place if you aren’t careful.

redvelvet3

 Wet mixture

6.) In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, hand whisk the vanilla and the vinegar into the Buttermilk.

Directions: Combining Wet & Dry

7.) To the wet mixture add 1/3 of the Dry mixture and 1/2 of the Buttermilk mixture. Blend until just combined. Now add 1/3 Dry mixture and the remaining Buttermilk mixture. Blend until combined. Now add the last of the Dry mixture and blend until combined.

redvelvet4

Wet & dry mixtures combined

Directions: Baking

If you are going to make mini-muffins or regular size muffins, always use paper liners!! If you don’t use paper liners, even greasing the pan won’t save you from the mess that will result. The bottoms of these things are like glue!

8.) Spoon enough batter into the paper muffin liners so that the batter is just below the rim of the paper. If you are making a cake, then grease the bottom and sides of the cake pan, cut out a round of baking paper and put it in the bottom of the pan and then grease the round of paper. Really, use the paper! The mess that will result is very frustrating. My first attempt and making a Red Velvet cake was a disaster because I didn’t use the paper rounds. Darn things came out of the pan in chunks, the bottom pieces had to be scraped out!

redvelvet_minimuffin1

Mini-muffin liners being filled

redvelvet_bigmuffin1

Large muffin liners filled and just in the oven

redvelvet_cake

8″ cake pans

Directions: Cooking Time

Mini-Muffins: 12 Minutes at 350 degrees

Regular Muffins: 20-25 minutes, test at 20 minutes with a toothpick but they will probably need the full 25 minutes.

8″ Cake pans: 25 minutes, test with a toothpick.

redvelvet_bigmuffin3

When you take them out of the oven, wait for a minute or two then use a flatware knife to slide down between the muffin paper and the pan and then lever the muffin out. Allow muffins or cakes to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

Topping

Here is a cream cheese icing that goes very nicely with the muffins. Sorry, they were all gone before I could snap a picture.

Icing Ingredients

  • 12 oz cream cheese (354 ml), softened
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 Tbsp salted butter, softened (you can use just salted or just unsalted, 12 Tbsp in total)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 1/2 cups (560g) powdered sugar

Icing Directions

With a hand mixer or stand mixer, whip the cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy. Whip in the vanilla and then the powdered sugar. Add the sugar in thirds instead of all at once. Now chill the mixture in the fridge for a little while and then give it one final whipping with the mixer. You can now apply it to your muffins or cake.

redvelvet_minimuffin2

Bon Appetite!

Hello Dolly Squares

hellodollysquares2

 

This is a quick and easy layered classic from one of my Mom’s notebooks. This recipe has been tried and tested for over fifty years. It’s lasted so long because it’s so damn good!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup butter, melted.
  • 1 Cup graham crumbs
  • 1 pkg (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 Cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 Cup shredded coconut
  • 1 Cup sweetened condensed milk (I use Eagle brand)

Directions

Read the directions carefully and apply the toppings in the order given below.

1.) Pour the melted butter in the bottom of a 7×11 or 9×9 baking pan.

2.) Sprinkle the graham crumbs EVENLY over the butter. I can’t stress enough here that you need to take your time and work SLOWLY. Sprinkle the graham crumbs evenly over the butter the first time because you will not be able to push it around and re-distribute it afterwards. As soon as the graham crumbs hit the butter they start soaking it up. Trying to move the crumbs around afterwards leaves bare spots on the pan which you don’t want.

3.) Sprinkle coconut EVENLY over the graham crumbs.

4.) Spread the chocolate chips EVENLY over the mixture.

5.) Spread the walnuts EVENLY over the mixture.

6.) Drizzle the 1 cup of sweetened condensed milk EVENLY over the mixture.

7.) Bake at 300 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until you see the edges starting to brown like in the picture below.

hellodollysquares

Bon Appetite!

New England Clam Chowder

clamchowder7Sooo good! This is a hearty, hot, tummy filler and almost just like my Mom used to make. I still remember sitting in her big country kitchen in our house on Campobello Island. It was always with anticipation that this dish was prepared. My mom didn’t make this is creamy as I do, she made it thinner. I’ll tell you later on how to make it thinner if you don’t like it thick, rich and creamy.

Ingredients

  • Five strips of bacon
  • 2 Celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 large Russet potatoes, peeled and diced small
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 bottle of Clam Juice
  • 2 cans of Baby Clams, drained and liquid reserved (or 2 cups fresh cooked clams if you live on the coast)
  • 1 Chicken Boullion cube
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups Half & Half cream, divided

 

Directions

Step 1.) Chop the celery and onion, set asice. Chop the potatoes, set aside. Dissolve the Chicken Bouillon cube in the cup of hot water. Drain the baby clams and reserve the liquid from the cans.

clamchowder1

clamchowder2Baby clams drained, liquid reserved

 

Step .2) In a Dutch Oven or large non-stick pot, cook the bacon until crispy. Transfer the bacon to paper towel and leave the fat/drippings from the cooking in the Dutch Oven.

clamchowder3

 

Step 3.) Saute the onion and celery in the Dutch oven until tender.

clamchowder4

 

Step 4.) Stir in the potatoes, water with bouillon, liquid from the cans of clams, the full bottle of Clam juice, pepper and thyme. Bring to boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes. You need to just cook until the potatoes are tender.

clamchowder5

Step 5.) In a small bowl combine flour and 1 cup of Half & Half until smooth. Slowly stir into the Dutch Oven and cook 1-2 minutes more until thickened. If you prefer a thinner chowder, then omit the flour and add this cup of Half & Half with the one in the next step.

Step 6.) Finally stir in the baby clams and the last cup of Half & Half.

That’s it! Could it be any easier?

clamchowder6

Now chop up the bacon and chop up a couple of green onions. Put them on small bowls on the table for your guests to spoon onto the top of their bowls of hot delicious chowder.

 

clamchowder7Bon appetite!

 

 

 

 

Compote Turkish Delite

compote_turkishdelight4This is a layered dessert using my basic fruit compote (see fruit selections below), Dulce de leche, Cocoa and crushed lemon-ginger cookies. When you taste it, it tastes just like a Turkish Delight chocolate bar but sweeter!

Compote Ingredients

  • 2 Cortland apples
  • 2 Bartlett Pears
  • 1 cup Raspberries
  • Juice of one hand squeezed Florida Orange PLUS the juice of one hand squeezed Mandarin Orange.
  • 4 rounded Tablespoons of Demerera sugar

Cook the compote according to my directions on the Basic Compote page, allow to cool for about 20 minutes.

 

Directions

These directions and the amount of compote above makes five (5) servings of about 3/4 cup. This is a really, really sweet dessert so you don’t need more.

Step 1.) Put ten of the lemon-ginger cookies in a plastic bag and carefully crush them with a rolling pin (meat tenderizer works too). Leave the bag unsealed so it doesn’t explode on you and be careful not to push the crushed cookies out onto the counter.

compote_turkishdelight1

Step 2.) Layer the indredients in the following layers. Judge the amounts for yourself but use the amounts below as a guide:

compote_turkishdelight2

Starting at the bottom:

  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of crushed cookies
  • 2 Tablespoon of raspberry compote
  • 1 Tablespoon of Dulce de leche (you can use store bought Eagle brand or make your own)
  • 1 pinch (1/8 teaspoon) of Cocoa Powder.

compote_turkishdelight3Dulce de leche layer over warm compote

 

After you have completed the first layer, repeat the above four steps again. Perhaps use slightly more crushed cookie to start the second layer.

When you are finished, top of the last layer with some more of the crushed lemon-ginger cookies. You can serve this warm or you can chill it in the fridge and serve it cold. Personally, I prefer this cold. Be forwarned though, even though this is a small dish, be ready for your guests not to be able to finish it. This is Oh-My-Goodness delicious but it can be too sweet for some people…….but not for us REAL men!

compote_turkishdelight4Bon appetite!