Monday 30 April 2012

What We Ate April 23 - 29

It’s been an interesting week.  I started a new job.  I’m very happy to have it and it looks like I’m going to enjoy it—pleasant people, beautiful location, civilized work hours—but it will take some time to get into a routine.  I’ve fallen out of the habit of planning each evening for the next day’s meals.

On Wednesday night I forgot to take anything out of the freezer for Thursday’s supper so, on Thursday morning, I told my husband (who is retired and quite a decent cook in his own right) that I was leaving our dinner plans up to him.   I came home and nothing was on the stove.  Nothing was even taken out of the fridge so that dinner could be started. 

Dismayed, I put down my bags, changed out of my work clothes and went to greet my husband, who said “I have $10 in change.  We’re going to MacDonald’s.”

It’s not that I’m against allowing the occasional Big Mac into our lives.  I actually kind of like them as long as they’re a once-in-a-while occurrence, but the point of going back to work is to get ahead of the game financially.  We can’t do that if we two-bit our budget to death with fast food. 

Lesson learned. My fella’s happy to help with the meal prep but he needs some direction.

I didn’t do a whole lot this weekend, but I did do some menu planning and, yes, it has led to a little extra spending.  Even so, I’m quite sure it’s better for both our budget and our health to change our menu a bit but to continue cooking at home.

Here’s what we ate last week:

  • Breakfast – Boiled eggs, toast, oranges
  • Supper – “Fresh” pea soup (made with frozen peas), corn muffins, applesauce pie 

  • Breakfast – Yogurt, canned peaches
  • Supper – Skabetti Spuds, a salad of romaine lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and red onion with homemade 1000 island dressing, leftover pie 

  • Breakfast – Oatmeal and applesauce
  • Supper – Venison stir fry, rice, veggie gyoza (from the freezer), oranges 

  • Breakfast – Rice and beans
  • Supper – MacDonald’s 


  • Breakfast – Toast and peanut butter, prunes, dried apricots
  • Supper – Salad of pea shoots, shredded carrots, red onion, chick peas, and julienned pickled beets, with yogurt, lemon and dill dressing.  Canned cherries for dessert. 

  • Breakfast – Granola, yogurt, oranges
  • Supper – Stewed  steak, white rice, steamed green beans, apple crisp

Sunday 29 April 2012

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Crisps

I usually bake soft oatmeal cookies with raisins in them but we were running low on raisins last week.  We did have chocolate chips though, and some coconut, so I thumbed through my cookbooks seeking inspiration.  I found it in Marion Cunningham’s Oatmeal Crisp recipe, from the Fanny Farmer Baking Book.

I made a couple of changes:

Ms. Cunningham’s recipe called for nutmeg and chopped nuts.  I omitted both from my cookies but added coconut and chocolate chips.  

Ms. Cunningham instructs bakers to roll the uncooked cookies in granulated sugar.  I felt this made the cookies too sweet so I chose to omit that step.

These cookies really are crisp.  They made a nice change in texture from what we're used to.  I’m thinking that maybe next time I’ll make them thinner and a little larger and use them for ice cream sandwiches. 

To make Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Crisps, you’ll need:

  • 3 cups of uncooked, large flake oatmeal (not instant oatmeal)
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1-1/2 cups chocolate chips

Spread the oatmeal out on two large, flat baking sheets and toast it in a preheated 350˚F oven for about 15 minutes, stirring it occasionally, until it turns light brown.  Allow it to cool to room temperature.  If you want to, you can toast the coconut too.  I didn’t.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar.  Beat the eggs and add them in, together with the vanilla extract.  Beat the mixture until it’s light and fluffy.

Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.  Add them to the butter mixture and stir until completely mixed.

Stir in the toasted oatmeal, coconut, and chocolate chips, mixing until just combined. 

Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for at least two hours.  When you’re ready to bake, roll cookie-sized portions of the dough between the palms of your hands to form them into balls.  Place them on ungreased cookie sheets, about an inch and a half apart.

Using your moistened fingertips or the bottom of a wet glass, flatten each cookie into a disk about 1/3 inch thick.

Bake the cookies at 350˚F for about 10 minutes, until the edges are a light caramel colour.

Let them sit on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes to firm up, then transfer them to a sheet of brown paper and allow them to cool completely.
This recipe is linked to Hearth and Soul Blog Hop hosted by Premeditated Housewife, The 21st Century Housewife, Zesty South Indian Kitchen, Penniless Parenting, Savoring Today, and Elsa Cooks.

Friday 27 April 2012

Pineapple Ginger Muffins

I like my ginger.  I like it in savoury dishes and I like it in sweet.  I like ginger tea and I like crystallized ginger as a snack, the way some folks eat candy.  It should be no surprise then, that when I was looking for something to bake for breakfast the other day, ginger muffins came to mind.

 I decided to flavour my muffins with a combination of crushed pineapple and crystallized ginger.  The resulting muffin was moist, with a BIG ginger flavour.  This is not a muffin to choose for breakfast if you’re not a ginger fan...But then, who isn’t a ginger fan?  ;^)

To make Pineapple Ginger Muffins, you’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup drained crushed pineapple (reserve the juice)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup canola or sunflower oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup finely diced crystallized ginger

Combine the crushed pineapple, egg, oil, sugar, and pineapple juice.  Stir until well mixed.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ground ginger.  I use a whisk to mix them together.  Stir until well combined.  Add in the crystallized ginger and mix it through until all the little ginger pieces are separated and lightly coated in flour.

Add the flour mixture into the pineapple mixture and stir just until the two are combined.  Don’t over mix.  The batter should be slightly lump.

Spoon the batter into an oiled muffin pan, filling each cup right to the top. 

Bake the muffins for about 25 minutes at 350˚F. 

Let them cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before serving them.  (They’re really delicious with a little marmalade.)

When the muffins have cooled to room temperature, they can be stored in an airtight container and either used within a couple of days or stored in the freezer.
This post is linked to Gallery of Favorites hosted by The 21st Century Housewife and Premeditated Leftovers, to Think Pink Sundays hosted by Flamingo Toes, to Church Suppers hosted by Everyday Mom's Meals, to Making Mondays Marvelous hosted by C.R.A.F.T., to Recipe Party @ The Sweet Spot hosted by The Sweet Spot and Crunchy Mamacita, to Link it up Wednesday hosted by {Junk in their Trunk}, and to Cast Party Wednesday hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain.

Gallery of Favorites     Everyday Mom's Meals  

  The Sweet Spot
{Junk in their Trunk}   Cast Party Wednesday

Thursday 26 April 2012

Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia

Do you remember your very first taste of certain foods?  I do.  I certainly remember my first bite of focaccia.  It was in the early 1980's, at Pagliacci's in Victoria.  

Both the restaurant and the meal were a new experience for me.  I'd grown up in a small town, eating a diet of mostly English-Canadian cooking.  I'd had little experience with other cuisines and my ideas about Italian food were both clich├ęd and limited.  

I had my first reasonably authentic Italian meal at Pagliacci's, and my first taste of focaccia.  I still remember that first bite.  It was a revelation to me:  warm and fragrant, redolent of garlic, olive oil, and herbs.  

Victoria was not, at that time, a hot bed of Italian cuisine.  It was (and is) "more English than England" and, search as I might, I never did find a bakery that produced a focaccia that came anywhere near in quality to that first taste I'd experienced at the restaurant.  To this day, no bakery bread has matched it.

Finally I learned to make focaccia myself, from a recipe in "The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines" by Jeff Smith.  That recipe is still the basis for the focaccia I make today, although I have changed it around some and do experiment with different flavours.

I’m not a big fan of the focaccia I see in most bakeries and grocery stores, with the dried herbs sprinkled over the top.  The herbs seem to get kind of burnt and most of them fall off the top of the bread so you never get a chance to taste them.  I know it’s not traditional, but I prefer to taste the herbs on my focaccia so I put them inside the bread.  No burning or falling off that way. 

I flavour my focaccia with all sorts of things but I’ve found it best to limit myself to two or three flavours in any single loaf.  This time I chose to use rosemary (from the pot on my deck)  and garlic.

To make Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • A 3-inch sprig of rosemary
  • 6 Tablespoons (3/8 cup) extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing on top of the loaf
  • 3-1/4 cups bread flour
  • coarse salt for sprinkling on top of the loaf

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the sugar into the water until dissolved.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top of the water and let it rest.

While the yeast is dissolving, chop the garlic very finely.  

Sprinkle the salt over the garlic and use the side of your knife to mash the salt and garlic into a paste.

Finely chop the rosemary.

When the yeast looks like this

Add the oil, flour, chopped rosemary, and garlic/salt paste in the order listed.  Mix and then knead the dough until it feels elastic, holds together well, and springs back when you touch it lightly with your finger.

Oil a bowl, put the dough in the bowl and turn it in the oil so that the dough is completely coated. 

Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it’s doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and knead it a few times.

Oil a baking sheet or line it with parchment and then form the dough out into a large, thin rectangle or oval. 

Let the bread rise again until it’s doubled in volume. 

Once the bread has risen, brush it with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt.

Bake the focaccia at 375˚F until it’s golden brown and sounds hollow when lightly tapped.

Cool the bread on a rack.  Focaccia can be served either warm or cold and is often accompanied by extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, for dipping.

This post is linked to Gallery of Favorites hosted by The 21st Century Housewife and Premeditated Leftovers, to Think Pink Sundays hosted by Flamingo Toes, and to Church Suppers hosted by Everyday Mom's Meals, and to Making Mondays Marvelous hosted by C.R.A.F.T., and to Recipe Party @ The Sweet Spot hosted by The Sweet Spot and Crunchy Mamacita, to Link it up Wednesday hosted by {Junk in their Trunk}, and to Cast Party Wednesday hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain.

Gallery of Favorites     Everyday Mom's Meals  

  The Sweet Spot
{Junk in their Trunk}   Cast Party Wednesday

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Skabetti Spuds

When we were kids, my brother, sister, and I all had our own particular way of saying “spaghetti.”  My brother said “pisketti,” my sister said “sketti,” and I called it “skabetti.”  Over the years, these childhood mispronunciations became family touchstones.  We sometimes use them still so, when I put spaghetti and meatballs on the table on Sunday, I was amused to hear my husband exclaim “Oh good! Skabetti!”

Last night, looking at the leftover meatballs and sauce in the fridge, “Skabetti Spuds” came immediately to mind.  We do enjoy a twice baked potato at our house, and some chopped meatballs and and a little spaghetti sauce looked to me to have good potato potential. 

The potatoes turned out very well.  Served with a simple salad, they made a comforting, nutritious meal.

To make Skabetti Spuds, you’ll need:

  • 2 leftover baked potatoes
  • Leftover meatballs
  • Leftover spaghetti sauce
  • Grated mozzerella and edam (I keep this in the freezer)
  • Grated parmesan cheese (not pictured)
Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides, leaving a thick enough wall around the skins that they retain their shape.

Mash the scooped-out potatoes.  Cut up the meatballs to make a quantity of chopped meat roughly equal to the mashed potatoes.

Mix in the spaghetti sauce a little at a time until the ingredients are moistened but not too loose.

Spoon the filling into the potato skins and top them with the grated mozzerella and edam.

Bake the potatoes in a 350˚F oven for about 20 minutes. Remove them from the oven and spoon some grated parmesan over the top of each spud.  Return them to the oven and bake them just until the parmesan begins to take on a little colour.

Serve immediately.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Cucumber and Red Onion Salad

Because we have a number of commercial greenhouses here on the island, English cucumbers are surprisingly inexpensive year-round.  They were on sale for a particularly good price last week ($0.77 each) so I brought one home.  My shopping basket that day also contained some lemons and a large bunch of dill which, although imported, was quite inexpensive too. 

I had a red onion in my onion bin so I decided to combine it with my supermarket bounty to make a salad.  I remembered a Mennonite bean salad with a sour cream dressing and based my dressing for this new salad upon that recipe, substituting yogurt for the sour cream.

The resulting salad was quite flavourful and when I ate the leftovers the following day, I found that the taste had actually improved because the flavours in the dressing had had an opportunity to marry.

To make Cucumber and Red Onion Salad, you’ll need:

  • 1/2 of a large English (seedless) cucumber, thinly sliced, about 2 cups
  • 1 cup of thinly sliced red onion 
  • A generous sprinkling of salt
  • 3/4 cup of plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 to 2 Tablespoons finely chopped dill
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
Put the cucumber slices and onion together in a bowl and sprinkle them generously with salt.  Don’t be shy about this.  The salt will draw out the excess moisture and make the onion more mild tasting.  Much of the salt will be drained away.  The rest will season the salad.  Toss the vegetables to distribute the salt throughout.

Allow the vegetables to rest for at least 15 minutes.  While they are resting, mix together the yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, dill, and sugar to make the dressing. 

Once the vegetables have rested, use your hands to squeeze out the excess moisture.  Don’t rinse them.  You want some of the salt to remain.

Wash out the vegetable bowl, then return the vegetables to it.  Add in the dressing a little at a time, mixing it through the vegetables, until they are well coated. 

Taste the salad and adjust the seasonings if necessary. 

Serve this salad very cold.  It would make an excellent accompaniment to fish.
This post is linked to Hearth & Soul Blog Hop hosted by Elsa Cooks, Savoring Today, Penniless Parenting, Zesty South Indian Kitchen, The 21st Century Housewife, and Premeditated Leftovers.