Monday 30 July 2012

What We Ate July 23 - 29

I try to stay positive about stuff, I really do, but I’m really concerned about food prices right now.  I’m reading all sorts of reports forecasting steep price increases as a result of crop loss this season.  Apparently Mother Nature and big farming are not playing well together.

My response to worries about food prices, the job market, interest rates, and or other big issues beyond my control is always pretty much the same:  I stock my pantry.  Having full cupboards has gotten me through many a tough time.  I’ve had good cause during the lean seasons to be grateful for jars put up in the summertime when food is plentiful.  

So that’s what I’m doing now:  canning, and canning, and canning.  

I’ve put by so much food that we need to build new shelves to store it!

It seems paradoxical, I know, but when I’m spending hours and hours canning in the kitchen, meal preparation often gets pushed aside or neglected.  Once again, my husband has been a life saver; stepping into the breach and taking over much of the day-to-day cooking this week. 

We kept our meals pretty simple this week, but still managed to eat very well.  Here’s what we ate:

Monday, July 23:

Tuesday, July 24:
  • Breakfast – Boiled eggs, whole wheat toast, prunes
  • Supper – Slow cooker pinto beans and ham, sliced tomatoes and bell pepper with ranch dip, parfaits made from leftover tapioca pudding, nectarines, and lemon cake (from the freezer)

Wednesday, July 25:
  • Breakfast – Raisin and chai scones, cheddar cheese
  • Supper –  Steak, foil wrapped spuds, veggies in papillote (parchment envelopes) - all cooked on the grill, cherries and cream for dessert

Thursday, July 26:
  • Breakfast – Oatmeal and applesauce
  • Supper – Eggs baked in tomatoes, veggie hash made with leftover potatoes, onions, chopped red pepper and mushrooms, canned peaches for dessert

Friday, July 27:
  • Breakfast – Peanut butter and banana sandwiches on multigrain bread
  • Supper – Our monthly dinner out.  We went to a local Cantonese restaurant.  :)

Saturday, July 28:

Sunday, July 29:

Thursday 26 July 2012

Crispy Fried Onions

I adore onion rings.  I really do. When they are well made, they are one of my very favourite foods.  Few things make me happier than a plate stacked high with crisp, golden rings.  I'm always pleased to find a restaurant that offers them.

I lack the patience to separate onions into perfect rings and I dislike deep frying at any time, but there are times when I don't want to go to a restaurant.  I've evolved a recipe for these times; cutting my onions into strands instead of rings, and putting aside my objections to deep frying for long enough make the crispy batter coating I'm craving.

I enjoy the tangy flavour buttermilk adds to deep fry batter, so I always use it when making crispy onions.  Lately though, I’ve been looking for ways to use up the whey I have left over from making yogurt. I decided to try varying my usual batter recipe this time, replacing the buttermilk with an equal quantity of whey.

My whey based batter turned out very well.  It had a nice crisp texture and its flavour was reminiscent of good sourdough bread; with a more distinct tang than buttermilk batter.  I really liked it.  If you like things that taste like sourdough, you’re going to love this dish too.

To make crispy fried onions, you’ll need:
  • Onions
  • Whey or buttermilk (about 1 cup of whey for every 2 cups of sliced onion)
  • Cornstarch
  • Seasoning (hot sauce is good in this batter, but so are poultry seasoning, chopped chives or finely minced scallion, or even just freshly ground black pepper)
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Salt

Cut your onions in half vertically and then slice them crosswise, very thinly, into half moon shapes.  Break them apart into individual strands as you drop them into a mixing bowl.

Add your whey to the onions and stir it around so that it touches all of the onion pieces. 

Cover the bowl and refrigerate the onions for at least an hour.  The whey will draw some additional moisture from the onions while they rest.

Once the onions have rested for a time, add some cornstarch to the bowl a bit at a time, mixing until it dissolves into the liquid.  (You’ll probably have to use your fingers to work it through the onions.)  Continue adding and mixing until the batter is about the thickness of heavy cream and clings to the onion pieces.  Stir in whatever seasonings you wish to add at this point.

Pour enough oil into a wide pan to make a depth of about 2 inches.  Heat it to 360F. 

While the oil is heating, place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet.  You'll be transferring the onions to this rack once they're cooked.

When the oil is heated, start adding onions to the pan.  Work in small batches.  The onions will want to clump together so you'll need to work them apart with your fingers as you drop them into the oil.  You'll still have clumps, but they should be small clumps.

Fry the onions to golden brown, then use a slotted spoon to remove them from the oil.  Take care to drain off as much excess oil as you can.

Transfer the drained, cooked onions to  your prepared wire rack and sprinkle them with salt.

Put the cooked onions, still on their wire rack, in a 200F oven to stay warm while you cook the remainder.

Serve the onions as soon as they’re all cooked, while they're still piping hot and crispy.

If you have leftovers and want to reheat them, do so on a wire rack, in a rimmed baking pan, in the oven.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Pasta Salad With Chicken and Cheddar

We don't eat a lot of take out food at our house but we're big fans of a rotisserie chicken. Here, rotisserie chickens can often be purchased less expensively than whole, uncooked chickens.  They're convenient, much more healthful than many other take out options, and a single rotisserie chicken can be stretched to make for three or four meals for the two of us.

Our usual practice when buying a rotisserie chicken is to eat the wings and legs the night we bring it home, and to save the breasts and carcass for subsequent meals.  Each chicken breast makes a meal for two, and the carcass makes a flavourful soup.

I often incorporate some of the chicken breast meat into a pasta dish of some sort.  When the weather is hot, I'll use it in a salad.  Pasta salad made with chicken breast in it is always a good choice. 
We eat a lot of different pasta salads at our house, many different dressings.  We like them all, but there are times when a good old fashioned, just-like-back-in-the-day, mayonnaise dressed salad is what we want.  On those days, I dress my pasta salad with a combination of mayonnaise and Dijon mustard, or with homemade roasted garlic aioli.

I made just such a "back in the day" pasta salad a couple of weeks ago, with breast meat from a rotisserie chicken and some tasty cubes of seven-year-old cheddar cheese.  It was perfect:  a quick, end-of-the-work-day meal with a flavour that evoked comfort food memories from my childhood.

To make Pasta Salad with Chicken and Cheddar, you'll need:

  • 1 cup macaroni, uncooked
  • 1 cooked chicken breast, skinned, boned, and diced
  • 3/4 cup finely diced red onion*
  • 1 cup finely diced red pepper*
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radish* (I cut mine in half before slicing them)
  • 1 cup sliced celery*
  • 1-1/4 cup sharp cheddar, cut into small cubes*
  •  1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard*
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise*
Cook the macaroni to al dente into well salted water.  Drain it and immediately rinse it with cold running water, continuing to rinse until the pasta has cooled completely.

Shake as much water as you can from the macaroni (you don't want a watery salad) and then transfer it to a large bowl.

Add in all of the remaining ingredients and stir them gently together until the mustard and mayonnaise are distributed throughout .  The rest of the ingredients should be evenly mixed.

If you have time, put the salad in the fridge for half an hour or so to allow the flavours to meld.

Taste the salad before plating it and season it to taste with salt and pepper.  Garnish it with fresh herbs immediately before service.

*These measurements are approximate.  I rarely use exact measurements when building a salad.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Ranger Cookies

Shortly after my potato chip cookie experiment, I got out my baking stuff to make our week’s supply of treats and my husband asked “Can we just – for once – have something ordinary?”  

I baked Ginger Crinkles.  I’ve been trying to stick to well loved recipes ever since.

I enjoy our well loved recipes but Pinterest is a constant temptation to me.  There are a lot of interesting cookies on Pinterest!  I want to try them all, especially the more curious combinations.  They pique my curiosity.

How to balance my guy’s desire for “regular cookies” with my desire to try something new? 

By trying new recipes while avoiding the more over-the-top end of the Pinterest cookie spectrum. 

No Oreo stuffed peanut butter cookies or bacon and caramel confections for us…at least for a little while.  I’m on the lookout for family recipes that other folk are kind enough to share.

Meaningful Mama recently shared her recipe for RangerCookies and it looked perfect to me.  Ranger Cookies are not common here but they looked just right:  A fairly plain cookie with oatmeal and Rice Crispies mixed in for texture and flavour.  They’d afford me the opportunity to try something new but would appeal to my husband too.  I decided to give them a try.

I had all the cookie ingredients laid out ready to photograph when my husband happened into the room.  He sized up what was on the table and asked “Can we have peanut butter chips in those?”  and, since we had some in the pantry, I thought “Why not?”

I made my Ranger Cookies just as specified in MeaningfulMama’s recipe but I doubled the batch and added in the peanut butter chips at the end.  They turned out well enough to find a permanent place in my baking repertoire. 

To make Ranger Cookies, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 2 cups Rice Crispies
  • 1-300 gram (10.5 ounce) package peanut butter chips

Cream the butter and sugars together.  Beat the egg and add it to the butter and sugar mixture, stirring until all the ingredients are well combined.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir to make a fairly stiff dough. 

Mix in the oatmeal, Rice Crispies, and peanut butter chips.

Form the cookie dough into balls and place them about 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets.  (I made mine about 2 inches in diameter.  They don’t spread much as they bake so next time I’ll make them larger.)

Bake the cookies at 350F for about 12 minutes, until they’re lightly browned.  

Allow the cookies to cool completely, on racks or brown paper, before storing in an airtight container.
This recipe is linked to the Lunch Box Link Party hosted by Addicted to Recipes.

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Monday 23 July 2012

What We Ate July 16 - 22

Last week was kind of a challenging week for me.  My on-going health issues decided it was time to jump up and slap me in the face again, so I spent a fair bit of time in the doctor’s office.  I know it doesn’t help my health at all, but the time out from my routine caused me a fair bit of concern.  If I fall back on my schedule, it’s mighty hard for me to claw my way back forward, especially if I’m not feeling well.

I’m very fortunate that my husband is willing to pitch in and help, and that he’s a competent cook.  He prepared a lot of the meals this week.  It meant stepping away from our original meal plan a bit, but I think he coped very well.  We ate healthy meals made from we had on hand, with only a single trip to the store, for an item that we thought we had in stock but didn’t.

Our daughter and grandchildren came to dinner on Friday and, kids being kids, we decided to make a simple hot dog supper. The kids were well pleased, and my fella too.  (He enjoys a hot dog.)  I liked it because it was quick to put together, leaving us plenty of time to have a very pleasant visit even though it fell at the end of a work day.

Here’s what we ate last week:

Monday, July 16:

Tuesday, July 17: 
  • Breakfast – Oatmeal cooked with raisins, apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon
  • Supper – Cream of vegetable soup, wheat thin crackers, leftover orange sorbet

Wednesday, July 18:

Thursday, July 19: 

Friday, July 20:
  • Breakfast – Almost whole wheat pancakes (from the freezer) topped with canned peaches left over from the night before.
  • Supper – Hot dogs on whole wheat buns, veggie and pickle platter, ice cream bars

Saturday, July 21:
  • Breakfast – Oatmeal and applesauce
  • Supper – Brown rice and pinto beans, salad of romaine lettuce, red onion, and shredded carrot with herb vinaigrette.  Cantaloupe for dessert.

Sunday, July 22:
  • Breakfast – Eggs Benedict, the rest of the cantaloupe from Saturday’s supper
  • Supper – Ham, baked potatoes, peas, corn, ranger cookies

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Salmon Meatballs with Lemon and Herb Infused Cream Sauce

Canned salmon is my friend.  I always have some in the cupboard.  

We’re fortunate to have some fishing friends who kindly share their bounty with us, and I make a point of putting a good percentage of that fish by in jars. It's a blessing during the months when no fresh salmon is to be had. 

This year, we were lucky enough to have sufficient home canned salmon in our pantry to get us right through the year.  Sometimes, though, our supply does run out.  When that happens, I buy canned salmon at the grocery store, taking care to purchase wild salmon caught and canned in either Canada or the U.S.

One of my favourite adaptable, canned salmon dishes is a simple salmon loaf.  I'm always changing up the ingredients but, last week, I decided to change the presentation too.  I used a variation of the recipe to make salmon meatballs, and then dressed them in a lemon and dill infused cream sauce.

Sometimes you have to be willing trade a little time in order to save money on a dish, or to get a better return in flavour.  This dish is like that.

The milk for the sauce needs to infuse for a couple of hours before you assemble the meal so, if you're planning to serve your meatballs as soon as they come out of the oven, you'll need to begin making the sauce well before dinnertime.

Although it does require some time and prior planning, this meal is tasty, the meatballs freeze well, and the ingredients are all very affordable. I consider the extra prep time required to be a good investment. 

Begin by making the infused milk for the sauce.  You’ll need:
  • 2 Tablespoons of chopped chives
  • Grated lemon zest (I grate the zest from a large lemon and use half of it for the infused milk, reserving the remainder of the zest, and the juice from the lemon for use in my salmon meatballs.)
  • chopped dill or pieces of dill stem (I use the stems because they have good flavour and might otherwise be discarded.)
  • about 1-1/2 cups milk 

Place the chives and lemon zest in the bottom of a pint jar, with the dill stems on top of them.   

Pour the milk over the herbs in the jar.

Cover the jar and store it in the fridge for at least two hours.

To make the Salmon Meatballs, you’ll need:


  • 1 pint, or two 8 ounce tins, of canned salmon (I used pink salmon.)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • The juice and half the grated zest from one large lemon (See the note in the infused milk instructions, above)
  • 2 cups soft of bread crumbs (I keep a bag of crumbs in the freezer for use in dishes like this one, made from the heels of our home baked bread chopped fine in the food processor.)
  • 2/3 cup of pitted, coarsely chopped Kalamata olives
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill 

Turn the salmon and the liquid it’s packed in out, into a bowl, and flake the fish with a fork.  Don't discard the liquid.  You want to incorporate it into the meatballs.

You can remove the salmon skin and bones if you want to, but both are so broken down by the canning process that they’re easily digested.  The bones, in particular, are a very good source of calcium so I leave them in.

Add the reserved grated lemon zest and the juice from the lemon to the flaked salmon.  

Add in the milk, then beat the eggs and add them in too.  Stir the whole mixture together until the ingredients are well combined.

Add in the bread crumbs, olives, onions, and dill.  Mix the dry ingredients through the wet mixture.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate the meatball mixture for at least a half hour, so that the crumbs have a chance to absorb some of the moisture and bind everything together.  Your mixture should look like this:

If there’s any liquid remaining at the bottom of the bowl, mix in a few more breadcrumbs to soak it up.

Form the salmon mixture into meatballs.  (I used a small ice cream scoop for portioning and then pressed the meatballs into shape with my hands.)  Place the meatballs onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake the meatballs in a 350F oven until they’re cooked through and firm.  (This took about 15 minutes in my oven.)  

While the meatballs are cooking, make the sauce.  

To make the sauce, you’ll need:

  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • the lemon and herb infused milk you prepared earlier

Pour the infused milk through a sieve to strain out the herbs and lemon peel.  Discard the herbs and peel, keeping only the milk itself.  Add more plain milk, to make a total quantity of 2 cups.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, and stir in the flour.  Cook the butter and flour together for 3 to 5 minutes, until the raw taste has cooked out of the flour but it has not yet taken on any colour.  

Gradually add in the infused milk, stirring constantly. Continue stirring and heating the sauce until it thickens and comes to a boil. 

When the meatballs come out of the oven, serve them over pasta, rice, cooked spaghetti squash, or toast, and dress them with the cream sauce.  

So good!  Pure comfort food, but good for you too.  :)

A Note on Cooking Ahead:  
If you're preparing the meatballs ahead of time for storage in the freezer, let them cool completely on the baking pan before packing them into freezer bags.  Reheat them in a covered container in the microwave.  They’re less likely to dry out in the microwave than they would be in a conventional oven. 
This post is linked to Gallery of Favorites hosted by Premeditated Leftovers and The 21st Century Housewife, to Foodie Friday hosted by Not Your Ordinary Recipes, to Pity Party hosted by Thirty Handmade Days, to Foodie Friday hosted by Rattlebridge Farm, to Foodie Friends Friday hosted by Walking on Sunshine, to Strut Your Stuff Saturdays at Six Sisters' Stuff, to Weekend Potluck hosted by Sunflower Supper Club, to Think Pink Sundays hosted by Flamingo Toes, to Scrumptious Sunday hosted by Addicted to Recipes, to Church Supper hosted by Everyday Mom's Meals, to Makin' You Crave Monday hosted by Mrs. Happy Homemaker, to Craft-O-Maniac Monday hosted by Craft-O-Maniac, to Busy Monday hosted by A Pinch of Joy, to Manic Monday at Bobbi's Cozy Kitchen, and to Tip Me Tuesday hosted by Tip Junkie, to Delicious Dish Tuesday hosted by Full Time Mama, Mama Chocolate, and Coping With Frugality, to the Tuesday To Do Party hosted by The Blackberry Vine, and to Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest hosted by Fresh Eggs Daily.

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Tuesday 17 July 2012

Celery Salad

I make celery salad a lot.  I didn’t realize how often until I looked back over my “What We Ate” posts last weekend.  Isn’t it funny how a recipe can become such a staple part of your diet that you don’t even realize how often you go back to it?

I started making this salad decades ago, when I found the recipe in the first Harrowsmith Cookbook.  That recipe’s very basic – essentially just a single vegetable marinated overnight.  It appealed to me because celery is almost always both available and affordable.  Budget friendly dishes have always ranked high on my list.  :)

Of course I messed with the recipe over time.  It called for an entire bunch (stalk? head?) of celery, which was ‘way too much for the two of us.  I amended the quantities to suit our needs and, because it’s very plain, I took to dressing the salad up by adding additional fresh ingredients after the celery has marinated. 

Here’s the celery salad I made last week.  Do feel free to play with it.  Do as I do: Start with the marinated celery, then change it up from there.

To make Celery Salad, you’ll need:

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups sliced celery
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk the lemon juice and dry mustard together until the mustard is dissolved.   Stream in the vinegar while continuing to whisk, until the ingredients are combined and the oil emulsified.

Stir the dressing through the sliced celery, cover the bowl, and store it in the fridge for at least 24 hours.  When the celery has marinated, it’ll look pretty much the same but the flavour will be more complex.  Taste it and add salt and pepper if you want it.

At this point, I add other fresh ingredients to the salad, based upon what I have on hand at the time.  Usually I add about another 2 cups of other ingredients; an equal volume to the celery.  This time I added carrot I'd cut into match sticks, thinly sliced red onion, and cubed gala apple.

Once you’ve added the fresh ingredients, you’ll probably want more dressing.  I usually mix a second batch using the same quantities as the first. 

Sometimes I add some extra seasonings or flavours to the second batch of dressing, to compliment the added salad ingredients.  I didn’t add herbs or spices this time but I did add in a teaspoon of honey to compliment the natural sweetness of the carrot and apple. 

The resulting salad was flavourful, crisp, and refreshing; perfect for a summer supper.
This post is linked to Hearth and Soul Blog Hop hosted by Premeditated Leftovers, The 21st Century Housewife, Elsa Cooks, Zesty South Indian Kitchen, Penniless Parenting, and Savoring Today.

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