Thursday, 21 October 2021

Stretching Leftovers: Roasted Veggie And Chicken Hash

My husband worked on a Fisheries ship for most of our marriage, right up to his retirement. The ship's patrol area stretched along the BC coast from the Washington border in the south to Alaska in the north, and all the way out to the 200 mile limit. There were two crews on the ship. Each worked three weeks aboard and then spent three weeks ashore.

The crews were small and tight knit. Their work, which involved both enforcement and search and rescue, was often dangerous and their lives depended upon them working well as a team. It became a bond as strong as family.

The first Sunday morning after my fella and I moved in together, I awoke to find most of his crewmates sitting in the kitchen and living room. They'd climbed in through the spare bedroom window and as soon as I appeared they chorused "What's for breakfast, Mom?"

I knew full well that the boys were being protective of my guy. They were testing me to see that I'd be good to him, and assessing how well I'd fit into the group. I made coffee - lots of it - and then looked in the fridge and cupboards to come up with something to serve for breakfast. We had a couple dozen eggs, some leftover roast pork, potatoes, and leftover cooked veggies. I made hash from the pork, potatoes, and veggies, and paired it with scrambled eggs to make breakfast for all fourteen of us. It felt a little bit like the story of loaves and fishes. lol!

The hash was a big hit and the breakfast gathering proved so popular that the crew continued to come for breakfast every Sunday they were ashore, right up until the time we purchased our first home and moved to a different town. Even after we moved, "Hashed Everything" continued to be a menu staple at our house. It's an incredibly versatile dish and it makes excellent refrigerator Velcro, using up whatever small bits of leftovers I happen to have on hand.

This is the version I made last week: 

  • 1 Tbsp oil, 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cups diced crimini mushrooms
  • garlic powder and poultry seasoning to taste
  • 2 cups diced roasted vegetables (I had roasted potatoes, carrots, brussels sprouts, and green beans)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter or a combination of butter and chicken fat (I saved the fat I removed from the top of the cooled pan juices leftover from roasting the chicken. Lots of good flavour there.
  • 1/2 of a large roasted chicken breast, diced (A friend gave me a huge roasting chicken - more than 5 pounds - and the chicken breast I used was from that bird. If you're using leftovers from an average fryer - about 3 pounds - you might want to use a whole chicken breast.)

 Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan, on medium-high heat, until the butter is melted.

Add the mushrooms to the pan and season them to taste with garlic powder and poultry seasoning. Saute them until they're deeply browned. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set them aside.

Melt the remaining 2 Tbsp butter (or combined butter and chicken fat) in the pan and add in the diced roasted vegetables.  Cook the veggies until they're heated through and nicely browned.

Add the diced chicken breast to the pan together with the cooked mushrooms.

Cook, stirring now and then, until the chicken takes on a bit of colour, then season the dish to taste. 

Serve piping hot.

This makes enough for two generous servings. 

I sometimes use hash as a base for baked eggs.  To do that, I preheat my oven to 350F. I spread the hash into an even layer across the entire pan. If the hash is cold, I put the pan in the oven until it's reheated. I use the back of a ladle to press down on the surface of the hot hash and make "nests" for the eggs. I crack an egg into each nest, season the eggs with salt and pepper, then put a lid on the pan. I put the pan in the oven until the eggs are cooked.


Thursday, 14 October 2021

Stretching Leftovers: Turkey and White Bean Soup

Last weekend was Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. If I'm honest about it, Thanksgiving's never been a really big deal for me. It's always nice to have an extra day to visit with family and friends. Other than that I can quite happily let it slide by without any sort of observance, even more so since my husband passed away almost seven years ago. Cooking a traditional turkey dinner for just me seems more work than it's worth, and it's 'way too much food for a single person.

This year, I planned to have macaroni and tomatoes on Thanksgiving, with a salad on the side. That would've made me quite happy. It's quick, simple to prepare, inexpensive, and comforting. I did end up getting a turkey dinner though. On Sunday night, I had an after-dinner visit with friends and they sent me home with a generous plateful of leftovers from their Thanksgiving feast.

I'm all about making the maximum number of meals from whatever protein I'm cooking with, so I looked at that generous dinner - roasted potatoes and carrots, Brussels sprouts, stuffing, and turkey - and decided to figure out a way to make at least two meals of it. 

When I got home that evening, I put some dry white beans to soak overnight.  The next morning, I treated myself to the veggies and stuffing for breakfast (so good!) and I used the beans and the turkey to make a soup for supper that night. 

When it was time to make the soup, I gathered these ingredients: 

  • The pre-soaked white beans
  • 4 cups of homemade stock (I used an all-vegetable stock this time but chicken or turkey stock would be good too.)
  • A bay leaf, a couple of sprigs of thyme, some parsley, a couple of sage leaves, and 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup of gravy (I used leftover chicken gravy from the freezer but if you have leftover turkey gravy, all the better)
  • Approximately 1/2 cup of diced, cooked turkey breast
  • A few chives for garnish
I put the white beans in a saucepan and poured the stock over them, then bundled the bay leaf, thyme, parsley, sage, and garlic together in a piece of cheesecloth, tied it off with some butcher's twine and added it to the pot too. I brought the pot to a boil, turned it down to simmer, put a lid on it, and walked away.  I returned after half an hour to begin checking on how tender the beans were and kept checking every 10 minutes or so until I decided they were at the right texture for me. (It took about 50 minutes.)

Once the beans were cooked I drained them, discarding the cheesecloth bundle of aromatics and reserving the stock I'd cooked the beans in. 

I set aside about 1/3 of the cooked beans and transferred the rest to my blender.  I added in the gravy together with enough stock to allow the blender to do its work, and hit the puree button. I checked the thickness of the puree and added in enough stock to thin it to a soup consistency.

The last step was to return the puree and reserved beans to the pot, stir in the chopped turkey, and reheat the soup. 

When it was heated through again, I tasted the soup to see if I needed to add salt and decided to leave it just as it was. All that was left to do after that was to ladle it into a bowl and snip a few chives over the top.

Simple, right?  It was surprisingly tasty.

This recipe made just over 3 cups of soup; enough for my supper and for lunch the following day.  

There was stock left over from cooking the beans so I cooled it, put it in the fridge, and used it to cook rice a couple of days later. Beans are rich in solable fiber so the stock not only brought flavour to the rice but added nutritional value as well.

I hope I can encourage you to think about ways to stretch a small amount of animal protein over a larger number of servings. With meat and poultry prices being what they are, it's a useful skill to have. 

If you have any questions about this recipe or suggestions for ways to use less meat to make more servings please do share them.  I always learn so much from you guys!

Thursday, 7 October 2021

A Halloween Paper Doll To Cut Out And Colour


Did you play with paper dolls as a child?

When I was a little girl we received three catalogues from each to two stores - Eatons and Sears - every year. They were great sources of entertainment.  We'd page through them looking at everything from clothing, to toys, to hardware, and even build-it-yourself house kits. The possibilities for flights of the imagination were endless. When new catalogues arrived and the previous issues could be retired, my mom would turn them over to us kids and, with scissors and glue, we transformed pictures cut from the catalogues into collages, greeting cards, and paper dolls.

To make a paper doll from a catalogue photo, we'd cut the figure out and paste it to a piece of light cardboard cut from a cereal box or something similar then trim around the edges of the pasted figure. If there were no catalogue pictures available, we'd draw our own figures. I remember these quite vividly, with their horseshoe shaped armpits, perfectly round heads, and faces always smiling widely despite the fact that the poor things must have been dreadfully uncomfortable, standing as they were with their feet turned outward at right angles to their shins. 

Once the dolls were made, we could go about the business of designing a wardrobe for them. Each outfit began the same way; by tracing around the outside of our cardboard mounted figure and then, using the outline we'd traced as a guide for shape and size, drawing clothing. Once the clothing was drawn and coloured, we'd draw tabs on the outer edges that could be folded to hold the outfits in place on the paper doll and carefully cut the whole thing out. 

Finally, we'd fashion a stand for the doll buy cutting two slots at the bottom of the cardboard and then cutting a long strip of cardboard narrow enough to fit in the slots. The cardboard would be folded at the center and then each arm fed into one of the slots to create a v-shaped base.  Once all that was done, the dolls could be dressed and the make believe would begin.

Because paper dolls were easy to make and we always had the materials with which to construct them on hand, the doll population boomed.  We made up elaborate stories around them, with large, complicated casts of characters. They provided us hours and hours of happy play on rainy days, or in the evenings after our allotted half hour of TV had been enjoyed, and made lots of happy memories.

Because I have such good memories of my childhood paper dolls, I thought it might be fun to design one now, to colour and cut out for Halloween. I'm hoping it will provide more happy hours of play, either to the kids in your life or to you, yourself.  After all, we're never too old to indulge a flight of the imagination, right?

You can find a printable pdf for my Halloween paper doll at this link from now until November 1.  Print it, colour it, and cut out the pieces.  Construct it as described above.

If you care to share pictures of your finished dolls, I'll love to see them.  Have fun!

Thursday, 30 September 2021

Over-Salted Food? Here's What To Do About It


The other day, my friend Donna told me she was mad at herself.  She'd made a huge batch of tomato soup and, because she was really tired, she'd accidentally over-salted it.  We've all done this at one time or another, right?  It's so easy to do: A moment's inattention or a misread recipe and there you are.

The last time I over-salted a batch of soup I went on Pinterest in search of solutions. I found lots of ideas there, some of them quite outlandish. The one that made the most sense to me was adding potatoes, the idea being that the potatoes would absorb some of the extra salt as they cooked. I tried it. Maybe I didn't put in enough potatoes, but the potatoes alone didn't fix the problem. 

If I'm honest, I already knew what needed to be done with the soup, I just didn't want to do it. I could add more ingredients until I arrived at a balance I liked, or I could use that salty soup to season other dishes. I didn't want to be eating soup for days and days so I opted for the second choice.  

I strained out the veggies and refrigerated them then ladled the liquid into small jars and froze it.  

I used the veggies in a cottage pie and, infused into the pie's gravy, their extra salt seasoned the entire dish. It turned out really well.  

Over the following weeks, I used the frozen liquid from the soup to cook rice and to poach chicken.  I used the poaching liquid from the chicken, diluted with some unsalted veggie stock, to make a new soup.

Because I usually don't realize my mistake until after I take them out of the oven, finding a way to use over-salted baked goods can be challenging.

If I've added too much salt to bread or biscuits, I usually reduce them to crumbs in my food processor. I use the crumbs as breading or as a topping for casseroles or gratins.  

If I over-salt a batch of pastry and realize my mistake before I've put it in the oven I'll roll it out into a sheet, dock it, score it into squares, brush it with an egg wash, and bake it without a filling. Because I don't add sugar to my pastry dough, I can either use baked pastry sheet for crackers or, if proves too salty for that, I can process it into crumbs as mentioned above. Unfortunately, if I've made a pie with that pastry before realizing my mistake, the best I can do is save the filling. The crust is, sadly, destined for the compost bin.

If a sweet baked good is too salty I often look to either caramel or chocolate to help restore balance.  I'll portion out some cooked fruit and/or ice cream, top it with a caramel or chocolate sauce, and then crumble my oversalted muffins, cake, or cookies over the dish. 

Dealing with an excess of salt in pie filling or pudding is more problematic. Really, the only thing you can do with the pudding is set it aside, make another - unsalted - batch and mix the two together. 

Salty pie filling is much the same. Scoop it out of the pie crust into a bowl, cook a second batch of pie filling on the stove top with no salt at all, and then mix the two together.  You can use the adjusted filling to make new pies but if you do that, having been cooked twice, the filling will have less texture. I prefer to use the amended pie filling between layers in a cake, or as the fruit layer in a trifle, or to mix it into my breakfast oatmeal over the course of several days. You can also fold it into a muffin batter if you first cut the fruit into smaller pieces.

I hope some of these ideas are helpful to you. I'm always pleased to learn new ways of reducing food waste so if you have a remedy for over-salted food not mentioned here, please feel free to share it in the comments. I'll look forward to reading your suggestions.

What's In A Necktie? Advice on Upcycling


I love Pinterest. It allows me to satisfy my inner hoarder without actually accumulating objects.  lol!  It's also my go-to search engine for creative ideas.

I watch Pinterest for upcycling ideas but I'm afraid that when it comes to upcycling neckties the offerings are rather disappointing.  Almost every project uses the ties in their finished form and, other than joining them together, little alteration is made. Neckties are made up of several layers of fabric and a layer of interfacing, making an assemblage of unaltered ties quite heavy and rather inflexible. 

Neckties are constructed in a standard form, with two or more long narrow pieces of bias cut fabric joined to make a tapered strip between 5-1/2 feet and 6 feet long (168 cm and189 cm) with points at either end. Many ties are narrowest at their mid-point, flaring in both directions, wider at the end that will make the front of the tie and less wide at the other end. The outer fabric of the tie is folded, meeting at the center of the reverse side of the tie and tacked into place with a series of long stitches. 

Good quality ties are usually made from silk, but in some cases also from very fine woven tartan or textured woolen knits. Less expensive ties are often made of polyester. It's best to check the labels before making your purchase, leaving the polyester ties behind for someone else to use.

If you open up a tie along its center seam, you'll find a facing at each pointed end and a woven interfacing in the dimensions of the finished tie laid along the center of the fabric.  The outer fabric is 2-1/2 to 3 times wider than the finished tie. You can see how it has been folded over the interfacing. 

If you remove the facings and interfacing and then press the outer fabric, you end up with a good sized piece of useable, fine quality fabric. 

Because necktie fabric is cut on the bias, double fold bias tape is the easiest way to make use of it, and very practical, too. The lightweight silk used to make neckties is admirably suited for bias tape. The finished tape is very flexible and has enough stretch to form around curved seams without making notches or folds. 

I also piece salvaged necktie fabric into yardages and use them to make linings for jackets and purses.

If you choose to make linings from pieced necktie fabrics, you'll need to allow sufficient yardage to cut your pieces on the straight grain.  The fabric grain crosses the diagonal of necktie fabric pieces as indicated by the ruler in this picture. You'll need to stagger your tie fabric pieces diagonally when assembling them, to accommodate the shapes of the lining pieces you plan to cut.

I hope this post will help you consider neckties in a new way next time you're out thrifting. Silk yardages can be very expensive while neckties can be purchased for a dollar or two at thrift shops. Even though it takes the fabric from several ties to make a metre of lining fabric you will still have spent significantly less than you would buying new fabric, and you'll be giving something once discarded a new lease on life.

If you have any questions about making bias tape or assembling the salvaged fabric into larger pieced yardages, please share them in the comments.  I'll do my best to address them for you in future posts.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Raspberry Valentine Cookies

Have you ever encountered a recipe that when you first read it you thought would be of little use to you, and yet somehow it turned out to be a staple, used year after year?  This cookie began with one of those recipes.

I was given some Rycraft cookie stamps for Christmas one year.  They were beautifully made, with intricate designs cast into fired red clay and a smooth glaze on the handles and tops.  Turned out, though, that I rarely used them. They failed to make the cut when I was packing up to move house a couple of years later but the recipe sheet that came with the cookie stamps stayed with me through the move, tucked into the back of my well-thumbed Fanny Farmer Baking book.  I still refer to it several times each year.

Cookie stamps and molds require cookie dough that doesn't rise or spread a lot - that holds the relief patterns without a lot of distortion - and the recipe sheet included several of them, mostly versions of cookies I already knew how to make.  There was just one that I hadn't encountered before: Fruit Jello Cookies.

Fruit Jello Cookies are basically a sugar cookie coloured and flavoured with Jello. Because they hold their shape very well, the dough is excellent for rolling out and cutting with cookie cutters, and that's how this particular cookie came to be.  

The first couple of years I just cut out simple heart shapes for my Valentine's Day cookies, then I decided to make them into sandwich cookies filled with butter cream icing.  A couple of years after that I cut a window in the center of half of the cookies, and added seedless raspberry jam to the sandwich cookie filling. That version stuck.  I've made my Valentine's Day sandwich cookies with buttercream icing and seedless raspberry jam ever since. They're so good!

To make Raspberry Valentine Cookies, you'll need:

3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 x 4-serving-size package of raspberry flavoured Jello
2 eggs, beaten
2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

You'll also need some vanilla-flavoured buttercream frosting and some seedless raspberry jam.  

I don't have a recipe for the frosting - I just soften some butter, add in icing sugar a bit at a time until it reaches the taste and consistency I'm looking for, and mix in some vanilla.  If the frosting gets too thick while I'm mixing it up, I add a little bit of milk.  If you're not a by-guess-and-by-golly cook and prefer a recipe, there are lots of excellent buttercream frosting recipes out there. Almost every old-school general purpose cookbook has at least one.

Anyway...Once you have all the ingredients on hand:

Begin by creaming the butter, sugar, and fruit jello together until well combined.  Add in the beaten eggs and mix again until they're completely incorporated.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, then mix them into the batter.

Divide the dough into two halves and, working with one half at a time, roll the dough out between two sheets of waxed paper, to a thickness of between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick.  

Transfer the dough, still between the sheets of waxed paper, to a cookie sheet and place it in the freezer.  Leave it there for at least an hour.

Remove the frozen dough from the freezer, then line a second baking sheet with parchment paper.  As soon as the dough is soft enough to get a cookie cutter through it (this takes just a couple of minutes), cut out an even number of heart shapes and transfer them to the parchment lined pan. Use a smaller heart-shaped cutter to cut a window into every second cut out cookie.

Gather the left-over dough into a ball, roll it out between sheets of waxed paper, and return it to the freezer.  Use it to make another batch of cookies later.

Bake the cut-out cookies in a 400F oven for 6 to 8 minutes, then cool them on the pan, on a wire rack, to room temperature.

Spread the back of each of the not-window cookies with a layer of buttercream frosting.  Top the frosting with some seedless raspberry jam, but don't spread the jam right to the edges.  It'll spread out a bit when you put the lids on.  

Top each iced cookie with a lid - a cookie with a smaller heart shaped window cut out of it - and fill the window up with a little more jam.

Let the filled cookies sit for a while before serving so that the frosting and jam have a chance to set up.  

I like to enjoy Raspberry Valentine Cookies with a hot cup of tea.

Hint:  Put the small heart cut-outs onto a separate, parchment-lined cookie sheet, putting the sheet back into the freezer until you've made up a whole pan full of them. When you're ready to bake the little cookies, brush the tops of the small hearts with a little milk and sprinkle them generously with sugar.  Bake the small cookies just as you did the big cookies, and store them in an airtight container. They freeze well and make a fun garnish for a bowl of ice cream.

Monday, 17 September 2018

How I Make Applesauce

I eat applesauce almost every single day.  I'm not even kidding.  I really do.  I love it.  Most of the time, applesauce is part of my breakfast but I also incorporate it into baked goods and use it as a sauce in which to braise pork chops or poultry. 

At an average of a cup a day - sometimes more - I go through a lot of applesauce in the course of a year.  I don't care for store bought applesauce and I can't afford to buy out-of-season fruit so, whether I love the process or not (and if I'm honest, I really don't), I need to can a lot of applesauce when the orchard-run apples hit the stores in fall. 

This year, I made 120 pounds of apples into applesauce; enough to get me through about 2/3 of the year.  I'd can more but I can't store more.  It'll have to do and, when I factor in the other fruit I canned this summer - peaches, plums, and pear butter - I probably won't have to buy fruit until next summer's peaches are in season.

Before I start telling you how I process my apples, I should tell you that several people have told me that what I make isn't really applesauce.  I cook it down a lot and they say that makes it apple butter, not applesauce.  For me it's a matter of a rose by any other name:  It's made of apples and I use it in the same way other people use applesauce, so that's what I call it.  If you prefer to call it apple butter, it's all good with me.  I'm not a member of the label police.  😉

I can process about 25 pounds of apples into applesauce each day.  I have two 15-quart stainless steel stock pots and that's how many apples they'll hold.  If you prefer to make smaller batches, this method will still work just fine.

Begin by putting about an inch of water in the bottom of your pot.  This will help to keep the apples from sticking to the bottom until they've cooked enough to release their own juice.  You want just enough water to serve that function,  The more water you add, the longer your sauce will have to cook down later.

Wash your apples, core them, and cut them in quarters.  There's no need to peel them.  Fill the pot as full as you can, put on the lid, and cook the apples over medium-low heat until they've softened and released their juice.  At this point, they will have cooked down to about half their original volume. The apples will be tender but the skins still mostly intact.  You'll need to puree them to break down the skins but it's worth the extra effort.  The skins add valuable dietary fibre and are nutrient-rich.  

Working in small quantities at a time, ladle the apples into a blender or food processor (I prefer a blender for this) and puree them until smooth.  Remember not to fill the carafe or bowl of your machine more than half full and to cover the lid with a kitchen towel.  Hot liquids expand while being pureed so put your hand on top of the kitchen towel and hold the lid firmly in place while your machine is running.

 As I puree the contents of the first pot of apples, I empty the puree from the blender into a large bowl.  When the pot is empty I wash and dry it, and transfer the puree from the bowl back into the pot.  As I puree the second pot full of apples, I add the puree to the contents of the first pot.  

When the apples are pureed, cook them on low heat - just above a simmer- with the lid off, stirring now and then to keep the sauce at the bottom of the pot from scorching.  Let the sauce cook for a long time: at least long enough to reduce in volume equivalent to the water you added at the beginning, and more if you prefer. The applesauce will have darkened in colour quite a bit by this time.  Don't worry, it's all good: it's just that the natural sugars in the apples have caramelized. 

I usually let my puree reduce in volume by about a quarter. When the sauce has reduced to the consistency you prefer, you're ready to can it.

The canning book I use says to ladle the hot applesauce into sterilized jars, cap the jars with prepared two-piece sealer lids, and then -if canning in pint jars - to process it in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes (25 minutes for quart jars).  Your canning book may say something different.  Please check before you process your applesauce and follow the instructions in your reference book carefully.  Food safety is essential!

Because my applesauce is very thick, I process my jars for an extra 10 minutes.  I figure better safe than sorry, and applesauce has a consistency that isn't isn't going to be affected by the extra cooking time.  My canner holds 14 pint jars so I process two batches a day.  If there's a pint of two of applesauce left over at the end, I put it in the fridge and add it to the next day's batch.

Before I begin the next day's batch of applesauce, I check the seals on the previous day's jars and then remove the sealer lid rings, wash the jars in warm, soapy water, rinse them, towel them dry, label them, and move them into the pantry.  If there are any unsealed jars, I either store them in the fridge and use them within three or four days, or empty the jars into the next batch of applesauce and then process as usual.

So that's it.  It's really very simple, isn't it?  The key to applesauce is patience.  Let it cook low and slow, process it carefully, and enjoy your bounty through the winter months.