From the Recipe Box: It’s Comfort Food Season!

With the price of everything going up, I want to save money in any way I can. One of those ways is preparing one-dish meals, and with it being comfort food season, I have plenty of recipes to try out. The best thing, I will use the slow cooker, so not only am I making yummy food but not using the stove or oven will save us money.

I love my slow cooker, and I can make so much and freeze what’s left over. That’s what I did with the chicken and corn chowder I made as part of my Mabon celebration. One-pot meals are perfect for busy days when I may not have time to cook a meal or I want to be lazy. Just throw everything into the slow cooker and leave it alone. That was one habit I had to break when we used it the first time; to resist the urge to lift that lid and see how the meal was progressing. Hubby would say to me each time I went out into the kitchen, “Don’t lift that lid!” It took a while, but I managed to suppress the urge. Sometimes.

The weather dropped slowly here, but now it’s cooler, and I’m geared up to cook. I have two recipes that I want to make to start off the season, chilli and chicken and dumplings. I’ve never made either, so I am excited. Chilli is always too spicy for me but I know I have to put some in otherwise, it’s just spaghetti sauce with kidney beans. Dumplings, on the other hand, worry me. What if they don’t turn out? What if they’re overcooked or worse, undercooked? Cooking bread in a slow cooker is new to me, and it’s a big part of this recipe.

I think it boils down to what will everyone else continue to eat? If I make enough for leftovers, will they be eaten? That’s a big problem in our house. I am starting to freeze things more, but some things don’t freeze well.

Okay, so what will it be?

Chilli?

Chicken and dumplings?

From the Recipe Box: Mushroom Rice.

I love mushrooms. They’re so versatile and taste great fried up with some garlic butter, so I was especially happy to find a recipe for mushroom rice that’s easy to follow. I took one picture and then got so wrapped up in the cooking process that I forgot to document each step.

You can find the original recipe HERE.

I’ve made this twice in the last couple months and there’s not a lot to preparing this dish, but I did change a few things to bring out more flavour as I found the original bland and my mother said the first batch was too salty.

I only changed two ingredients the second time around. I used mushroom stock in place of vegetable/chicken stock, and unsalted butter. I also cooked this in a cast iron pot because it distributes the heat better, but the handles and lid will get just as hot as the pot. Cast iron gets crazy hot, which is what you need to brown the first few ingredients.  

I cooked the mushrooms, garlic, and onions for fifteen minutes instead of five. Caramelizing onions takes a while (45 minutes, without cheating), but even with diced onions you want them nice and brown to add to the flavour. Same with the garlic but keep a close eye on the garlic as it will burn easily. Leaving the garlic and onion to cook longer gives a good base on the bottom of the pot which adds to the deglazing with the mushroom stock. You’ll get a lot of your flavour from the deglazing.

The small amount of rice for this recipe means you will have enough for leftovers, but not for days on end. I find with some recipes, I still have food at the end of a week and because we have an older and smaller fridge, I end up throwing it out to make room. Next time I make this, I’m going to use a mushroom stock I make myself. This dish was perfect for the nights I had to work late and needed to eat something before bed. A few seconds in the microwave on low did the trick and I swear it tasted better as a leftover.

From the Recipe Box: Chicken and Corn Chowder.

It seems the first day of autumn ended summer on all levels. Goodbye hot, muggy, humid weather, and hello dull, cloudy and cooler day! Hell, it rained on the first full day, and I didn’t complain a bit.

Cooler weather means it’s time for comfort food, and I found a new one that I’m adding to my list. The recipe can be found HERE, which is a variation on the recipe found HERE. I’m not a fan of spicy, so I kept the jalapeño’s out of it and used the bacon to give it a bit more flavour.

I cooked the chicken in the oven at 425 with a layer of olive oil and herbs. This added a bit more taste. Overall, I was going for a nice, mild flavour and along with the bay leaves, I think I accomplished that.

Ingredients:

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked and shredded (3 cups)

8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled*

1/4 cup butter

1 large red bell pepper, diced (1 1/2 cups)

1 medium yellow onion, diced (1 1/4 cups)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup all-purpose flour**

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced slightly less than 1/2-inch thick (3 cups)

2 bay leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn

1 1/2 cups half and half

Green onions and seeded, finely chopped jalapenos (optional), for serving

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat.
  2. Add red bell pepper, onions, jalapenos and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds longer.
  4. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes stirring constantly. While stirring, slowly add in chicken broth and whisk until well blended.
  5. Add potatoes, bay leaves and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture to a boil stirring frequently, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes or just until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add in cooked chicken, corn and half and half and simmer, uncovered 10 – 15 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Serve warm topped bacon, green onions, and optional jalapeno peppers.

((* cut the bacon ahead and cook in the pot before adding butter))

**((to make this recipe gluten free, substitute potato starch for flour. Just remember that you add less potato starch.))

From the Recipe Box: Eating healthy; a beginner’s journey.

The last year has been a hard one. My stress levels were pushed to the max, but out of all of it, were my eating habits. It didn’t surprise me when I got on the scale and discovered that I am a good ten pounds heavier than I was last year, and the weight gain is interfering with my work. Gone are my six hour shifts because I can’t stand on my feet for longer than three. I was heavy to start with, an the extra weight isn’t doing me any favours, so, I signed up to Noom.

Is it working? In a nutshell, yes. This is going to be a slow, gradual thing, but as they advertise, they teach you how to keep it off, and that takes some time. At this moment, I am 4.2 pounds lighter than I was two and a half weeks ago, but I have a long way to go just to get to my pre-pandemic weight. I’ll give monthly updates as it’s part of the program to be social about this journey.

Anyhoo . . . I thought I would share some recipes that I came up with. They’re simple and easy to whip together. This one is for a yummy fruit salad. I have a sweet tooth, so I need something that will be sweet enough to satisfy it, and still be low in calories.

Fruit Salad.

1 large mango

1 gala apple

290g watermelon

Cut into 1/2 bit size bits. Toss together in bowl. Keep in fridge. Will make four servings of 1 cup each of roughly 77 calories.

Mango is the sweetness I need, and I like gala apples for their crunch and added sweetness. Watermelon is good because it’s mostly water. I eat half a cup in the afternoon or evening, and do a full cup in the morning. The only problem I have is the mango ripens quickly and begins to taste and feel a bit off, but if you like them, you shouldn’t have a problem. I want to try different fruit combinations, and I will post here the results.

Summer is slowly coming to and end, and a lot of the fruit is going out of season. As much as I’d like to do frozen, I find it’s just not the same. Do you have a suggestion for a fruit salad recipe? Maybe made with autumn fruit? I can handle just about all fruit, except cherries. There’s something about cherries that they have to be eaten by themselves.

From the Recipe Box: Does Anyone Deep-fry Anymore?

I’m dating myself with this, but remember those old cooking oil commercials with Florence Henderson? It seems like everything was deep fried back then.

Deep frying food went out of favour for quite a while, and I understand why, but I think like everything else, it’ a matter of how much you eat and what you make it with. There are dozens of articles on cooking oils; the bad and the good, and I’ve read a lot of them. We also have more oils to chose from. I found a good article that explains why some oils are bad and a list of their smoke points.

Note the Palm oil nutrition fact. They don’t recommend anyone using it.

Years ago, when Hubby found out he had high cholesterol, we stopped deep frying. He stopped eating anything deep fried and so did I in support. It was fine; I didn’t miss greasy food at all, and every now and then we’d go out to a fast food place, so it wasn’t as though we completely cut out deep fried foods.

Now, after so many years I’ve been toying with deep frying again. I bought a small fryer during 2nd lock-down, but I’ve only cooked fries, and they weren’t very good. Okay, I’ll be honest, they were crap in the first degree, and I have no idea what went wrong. Something I’ll have to play around with. My son took Culinary in college, and he said there were several dishes he learned to prepare that require deep frying, but there’s still a part of me that has this hesitation of fried foods. As though it’s taboo and eating it will bring some heavy shit on me. I felt the same way about butter for years too, but we’ve been using it over margarine for the last year.

Do you use a deep fryer? Any tips you can give a newbie?

Food in the time of Covid.

This last year has been interesting, to say the least, but one thing I wasn’t planning on, was all the cooking I’d be doing. I think that came as a shock to a lot of people too. Suddenly, here we are, locked in our homes for weeks at a time, trying to keep sane, and like a lot of others, I found that cooking did take some of the edge off.

We got a few weeks subscription to HelloFresh, and it was great! Twice a week they’d send us stuff and I had a blast putting it all together. Not to mention that I had my son’s extra culinary knife set so I got to play with those as well. We only did the subscription for a couple weeks. It’s nice, but it’s damn expensive, and it opened me up to doing more home cooking than I was before. I started experimenting with spices and sauces, added herbs to things I normally wouldn’t, and took the time to really prepare a meal. My mom got me the biggest bottle of Worcestershire sauce I’ve ever seen. I love it too and I put that shit on everything.

The fact everyone was making bread I find hilarious, and my own attempt at making as sourdough starter failed brilliantly, but it wasn’t just bread. I discovered that I really like to cook, and not just whip stuff together or throw a pre-made dinner into the oven, but actually spend time preparing a meal. It’s become a lost art; like knitting.

Because of this, I’ve pulled back from the prepared meals. I get a few for my son on the days that I’ll be working late, but most of the time, I’ll cook from scratch, and I can’t wait until the garden is growing. Nothing tastes better than food you’ve grown yourself.

How were your Covid meals? Did you jump on the bread bandwagon?

Stay safe.

Adventures in Restaurants: The dinner that wasn’t.

RestaurantLogoI enjoy going out to dinner with my husband. Even after twenty-four years we still find things to talk about. His day, my day, our son, what the hell we’re going to do with the house; light conversations and antidotes. Relaxing in a nice restaurant with a good meal is something we’ve just started doing, so my birthday outing (which started all this in the first place) was going to be an anniversary of sorts for us.

Too bad it didn’t work out that way.

Now, like I said, I enjoy a good conversation with dinner and when we go out it’s expected that other patrons feel the same way, but the restaurant we had reservations at this time out was so loud with talking, neither of us could hear what the server was saying, even though she was RIGHT NEXT TO ME. Literally! Bent over, no less than a foot from my face and I still could barely understand what she was saying. Disappointed was not the emotion that reared up either. It was a small, intimate dining room, but the McDonald’s play room would have been quieter.

So we left. I apologized to the server, explained that it was too loud and we high-tailed it out of there. Husband didn’t even get a sip of water from his glass. We went to a few other places close by, but as we suspected (because it was the weekend) they were full. It was also a really nice night too. That always brings out the customers.

I think our first mistake was going on the weekend. Looking back, our other restaurant adventures were during the week. Weekends are always busy, but Husband had a reservation, and as it was someplace we’d never been to, and we had no idea what to expect. Atmosphere is everything to a restaurant and as I’ve worked in a few, I know that it only takes one or two tables to ruin it. Trust me, I could tell you stories . . .

I’m debating whether or not to try this place again, but not on the weekend. All the reviews said the food was excellent and it is one of the places on our list. I’m just afraid of it being the same again. We ended up at our old stand-by; Red Lobster. At that point, after walking around downtown for half an hour I was so hungry if that place had been busy I would have settled for McDonald’s.

Second time a charm or not?

Adventures in Restaurants: Opa! It’s all Greek to me!

It’s been awhile since Husband and I had a night out together, so when he called and asked if I’d go out to dinner with him, how could I resist?

Finally the heat wave broke and downtown was nice. Not too hot, not too windy and the sun was just setting over the buildings so it wasn’t glaring down on us. Part of Princess Street is still hacked up (The Big Dig; Part Deux), and I was surprised we found a parking spot for Big Red.

We strolled up Princess Street looking for someplace new. Husband saw Greco’s and we headed in. Now I used to work for a Greek man, so I’ve seen my fair share of Greek food, but not until tonight did I get the chance to sit down and enjoy.

Oh and we enjoyed.

First, the waiter brought us over some bread with a sample of either Taramosalata (zesty fish dip blended with oil & lemon), or Skordalia (whipped potato with fresh garlic lemon & olive oil). Might have been a bit of both.

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I had to start off with an appetizer. I’m not very brave, especially when I see that escargot are on the menu. Not as nice as Le Chien Noir, but it was tasty, and of course, I dropped a small piece of cheese on the girls (I don’t care, they’re my boobs).

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For entrees it was Souvlaki for me. It came with rice, a salad (Greek for me) and the best potatoes I’ve ever tasted. Even Husband said they were ‘wicked’, and he doesn’t use that word often.

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Husband had the Mixed Grill; a porkchop, lamb chop and chicken breast. He’s wanted to try lamb for some time, but wanted it done right so he could compare it if he has it again. It’s a different flavour to it. Like a burnt grease taste. He thought it was really good, but I didn’t care for it. It did taste oddly familiar too.

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We had no desert tonight. There was too much food and no room.  Excellent meal. We will definitely be going back.

Adventures in Restaurants: Ich bin ein Berliner

I’m not sure if it’s accurate or not, but it seemed fitting for this post. Ocktober Fest is the closest I ever get to German food. I’ve made German potato salad (yum!), but with a lot of authentic foods, unless you’re shown how to do it by someone from that country, you really don’t know what it tastes like.

We went to Amadeus after work one night. It’s another of those small, cozy places nestled in between stores on the main street in the city. It’s another one of those places we kept meaning to visit, but never got around to until now, and this time we sat as far away from the window as possible.

Husband likes to sample draft beer from foreign countries. I don’t normally take a picture of that, but the glass has a hole in the base.

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Our dinners came with either soup or salad, so we had the cabbage soup. It was not what I thought it would be. I envisioned a thin, watery soup with strips of cabbage and bland tasting. This was anything but bland. Creamy, with onion and either caraway or rye seeds. We couldn’t figure it out, but it was so good.

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For entrees, Husband had Zigeuner Schnitzel; pork loin schnitzel topped with green and red peppers, mushrooms and onion in a homemade paprika sauce.

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I had Rouladen; beef rolls stu­ed with onion, mustard, bacon and dill pickle. Yes, there was a slice of dill pickle rolled up in my dinner. Both came with something called spätzle. As far as we could tell, it’s just twisted up pieces of pasta dough that’s been boiled, and mine came with warm red cabbage.

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I’m seriously starting to like cabbage.

We didn’t have desert. The meal was too filling as it was. Definitely going back.

Adventures in Restaurants: The French Connection

We did something for my birthday we haven’t done in years; went out to dinner. Our place out in the country was always such a long drive, that it was rare for us to get out anywhere fancy, but this year we decided to throw caution to the wind and go someplace really nice.

There’s a little French bistro in the city called Le Chien Noir that Husband and I have wanted to visit for a while. We thought about taking Sithboy, but after looking over the menu outside, realized there wasn’t anything he’d like on it. Ah well…

The restaurant itself was small and cozy, and we sat by the window. It was nice to see people walk by, but then I realized they’d see us too, while we eat, and that kinda put me off on window seats.

Anyway, appetizers were Escargot Grautin and P.E.I mussels.

 

I *love* escargot and get them whenever I can. These were incredible. Done in garlic and wine sauce with cheese melted over top, I had to restrain myself from eating them too fast. Husband had mussels roasted in red wine-tomato broth.

 

Entrees were roasted duck with white beans and sausage for Husband and roasted chicken for me. I could have made a meal out of the mushroom dressing for the chicken. The sauces for both meals were rich, probably made with cream. I don’t care. They were incredible.

For desert Husband had grapefruit mousse with toffee candy crumbs. Sorry, I forgot to get pictures. It was so nice; not too sweet or bitter. I had a specialty coffee with a couple shots of liquor and whipped cream in it. Enough so that I caught a buzz after drinking only half of it.

Over all, it was a great night. So glad we went out.

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