Sunday, September 21, 2014

RICE COOKER - ZOJIRUSHI

To cook rice, I have been using a few different methods.  I stopped using the pot on the stove to cook rice some time ago.  I didn't have luck or timing in making sure the rice didn't boil over or that it would stick to the bottom of the pot.  I started to use either a rice cooker or the oven.  The rice cooker was the basic cooker with the glass lid and steam hole.  There would be a mess around the counter where the cooker sat as when the rice was cooking away in the nonstick bowl, the steam and the liquid would be spewing out the stem hole and sometimes around the glass lid.  And when the rice would be finished, there would be a rice crust on the bottom of the cooking bowl.  The oven method was easy, no overflow of steam, liquid or rice and no rice crust on the bottom of the corel casserole dish that I used to cook the rice.  But heating an oven and using it to just cook rice seemed a little much.  

Recently I was describing my rice cooking experience to a friend of ours.  He promptly provided me with information and rationale on the rice cooker that he has been using for the past ten years.  He said that this was the best cooker and that the quality of the rice made was very different from the basic cooker I have been using.  I was intrigued about the model he recommended - Zojirushi.  I started to do my own research on what is the best rice cooker and I read a number of reviews.  The Zojirushi rice maker did get high marks.  Reading all of the information prompted me to buy a new rice cooker.  

I did buy a Zojirushi rice cooker and I bought a model made in Japan.  There are many different models made by this company.  I bought one that has advanced fuzzy logic technology and is the 5.5 cup capacity.  The technology figures out the time required to cook the rice.  The cooker has multi menu cooking functions for different kinds of rice and also for porridge.  The times will change depending if you are cooking white rice, sweet rice, brown rice and quick rice.   I am looking forward to testing the cooker to make steel cut porridge.  The cooker also has a steamer basket.   The design of the rice cooker is interesting.  It looks like a tub and has a handle that you use to lift and carry it around.

Last night I made basmati rice and I think it was the best rice I have ever made.  The rice was fluffy, each kernel was separate from the others, it was not gummy and there was no mess around the counter.   I am looking forward to try brown rice and sweet rice made in this cooker.  The reviews I read said that this cooker makes excellent brown rice.  Rice does take longer to cook in this style of cooker versus the basic rice cooker.  It took 50 minutes to cook the basmati rice.  I did make a bit of rice in order to have left overs.

Cooked basmati rice.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

GLUTEN FREE CHERRY COBBLER CRISP


Over the past few years, I have posted recipes for both crisps and cobblers.  With needing to make a gluten free dessert and knowing that my company likes sour cherries, I decided to experiment and make a topping that included both ground almond flour and oatmeal.   I took a recipe for a cobbler and adapted it.  I had nothing to lose and besides, it is always fun to experiment when company comes.  Of course it is easier when your company is family.

For the filling, I used half a cup of splenda.  For the topping I used almond milk instead of buttermilk or dairy milk.   Since I had blackberries to use as they were getting soft, I used those in the topping.

The company loved the dessert.  It was just about inhaled and not too many leftovers.

Just out of the oven.


Not much left!


INGREDIENTS:

Filling

4 cups of fresh or frozen pitted cherries
¼ cup white sugar or splenda
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tsp almond extract
1/8 tsp salt
2 ½ tbsp ground almond flour

Topping

1 ½ cups quick cooking oatmeal
½ cup ground almond flour 
1/3 cup sugar or splenda
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup butter, chilled and cut into pieces or coconut oil
1 cup buttermilk or one cup of milk with 1 tbsp of vinegar (soured milk)
1 cup blackberries or blueberries or other berries

DIRECTIONS:

In a mixing bowl, comine all of the ingredients for the filling.  Oil an 9 X 13 baking dish.   Place the filling into the baking dish.

To make the topping, combine the oatmeal, almond flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  Add the butter and using a fork or pastry blender, mix the butter into the dough until it is crumbly.  Pour the milk over the flour mixture and mix it together.  Fold in the blackberries or blueberries.  Using a wooden spoon, spread the dough on top of the fruit. 

Bake at 375 degrees F for 50 minutes or until the  dough is golden brown and the fruit mixture is bubbling.  Let cool and serve with ice cream.  Store leftovers in the fridge.   Serves 6 to 8 depending on appetites.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

CELERY POTATO SOUP

This year after the garden got planted, the sparrows decided to eat the young shoots of the beets and swiss chard plants.  With those plants gone, we had space to fill.   I have never planted celery before but after talking to a person working at a gardening centre, I thought I would give it a try.  About 10 plants were put in the garden.  They all survived.  Ten large bunches of celery is a lot to eat.  Some has been given to friends and we are busy eating celery.  I got the idea to make celery potato soup from a neighbour who was going to use the celery I gave to her, to make this kind of soup.   I made this soup as the appetizer for a supper meal.  With zucchini being plentiful in the garden, I added a small chopped zucchini to the soup.  One needs to be creative in using zucchini.

The soup was enjoyed by all and the DH even went back for a second bowl.



INGREDIENTS:

2 tbsp oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 pound celery, chopped
12 ounces of potatoes, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped - optional
6 cups of broth such as chicken or vegetable
1/2 tsp dry thyme
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large soup pot heat the oil on medium high heat.   Add the onion and celery and reduce heat to medium heat. Saute for five to seven minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Add the potatoes and zucchini if using.  Continue to saute for another five minutes.  Add broth, thyme and salt and pepper.  Heat to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes.   Turn the heat off and using a hand blender puree the soup.  Adjust seasonings if required.  Serves 6.

Monday, September 1, 2014

CORN EDAMAME SALAD

If I have fresh corn, I prefer using it to frozen or canned corn in salads.  With access to fresh corn now because of the season, there are so many options to use corn other than just as fresh corn on the cob with butter, salt and pepper.  Of course butter, salt and pepper on fresh corn is always delightful.  I like the combination of edamame beans with corn and cilantro in this salad.




INGREDIENTS:
2 ears fresh corn or 1 1/4 cups cooked corn kernels
1/2 cup shelled edamame
1/4 cup sweet onion, chopped
1/4 cup coloured pepper, diced
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped 
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Cook the corn if using fresh corn.  If you can, grilling the corn on the barbeque provides a great taste and the grill marks add to the salad.

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl.  Refrigerate if not serving right away.  Serves 2 to 3.




Sunday, August 24, 2014

ROASTED PORK LOIN

This summer we got a new barbecue which has a rotisserie function.  With about 7 people coming over for supper we decided to try a pork loin on the rotisserie.  As the meat is very lean, I made a marinade.  The loin done on the rotisserie turned out really well and everyone enjoyed the meal.  Because the loin was so long, I cut it to make two smaller loins.  I thought it would be easier to cook and handle on the barbecue with smaller sizes.

Pork loins tied with kitchen cooking twine.

Loin put into bag for marinading. 

Loins placed on the skewer for the rotisserie.

The cooking has started.

The cooking is done.

Ready to be carved.

INGREDIENTS:

Marinade:

1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce or Braggs soy seasoning
1/2 cup maple syrup
4 tbsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

7 pounds pork loin
kitchen cooking twine
2 extra large zip lock bags

DIRECTIONS:

Mix the marinade in a medium size measuring cup.

Cut the pork loin in half.  Wrap cooking twine around the loin to secure its shape.  Place each of the loin into a zip lock bag and add half of the marinade to each mixture.  Close the bag and roll the marinade around the meat.   Store in the fridge for one to two hours.  Take the loin out every so often and roll the meat around in the bag.

Take the loin out of the fridge about 20 to 30 minutes before cooking to warm to room temperature.  Before cooking, take each loin out of the zip lock bag and dry it with paper towels to remove the excess moisture.

If cooking on the barbecue or in the oven, roast for 2.5 to 3 hours at 325 degrees F.  Serves a large crowd.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

GRILLED SALMON

When salmon is cooked on the barbecue, I think it can tastes much better than when I cook it in the oven.  I recently made this recipe for a Sunday supper and the taste was amazing.  Instead of cooking the whole skinless and boneless filet, I cut the raw salmon into chunks, marinated the chunks and then  I threaded them onto bamboo skewers.  When buying the salmon, choose a filet that is thick so that it can be threaded easier on the skewers.  I didn't take a photo of the cooked skewers as the photo wouldn't do justice to the taste of the cooked salmon.  Both the DH and I thought that this salmon was one of the better salmon dishes I have made.  Of course, the grilling by the DH on the barbecue added to the taste.

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 to 2 pounds of skinless, boneless salmon filet, cut into about 2'' by 2''
1/4 cup soy sauce or temari sauce or Bragg soy seasoning
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp agave or maple syrup
salt and pepper, optional
6 to 8 bamboo skewers

DIRECTIONS:

Add all of the ingredients, except the skewers, to a container with a lid or a zip lock bag.  Coat the salmon chunks with the marinade.  Place in the fridge for an hour.  During this hour, take out the container or bag and rotate the salmon so that the marinade is mixed around all of the salmon.

Fifteen minutes before you are ready to barbecue, soak the bamboo skewers in a pan of water.  Thread about three pieces of salmon onto each skewer leaving space between each piece of fish.

Barbecue for about 15 minutes, rotating the salmon skewer half way through the cooking time.  The barbecue time depends on your cooking heat.  The heat when the DH cooked these skewers was about 325 to 350 degrees F.  Serves 3 to 4.


Monday, August 11, 2014

STRAWBERRY PIE

On a recent Saturday morning we went to the farmer's market.  There are all sorts of stands, from vegetables, to fruit, to jams, to baking, to clothes and soaps.  After looking at all of the pies, the DH was debating on whether to buy a pie.  My inside voice was saying, geez, I can make a pie so I spoke up and volunteered to make one.  The DH wanted a strawberry pie and since we had strawberries in the fridge, this was a done deal.  In making the pie filling, I used 3 tablespoons of minute tapioca and I could have used 2 tablespoons since the berries were not overly juicy.  If the berries are juicy, then use 3 tablespoons.   I also like to use a deep pie dish.  The pie was delicious and the DH ate almost half the pie.  He also said that my pie was better than any of the pies he saw at the farmer's market.




INGREDIENTS AND DIRECTIONS:

Pie Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon white sugar or splenda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup vegetable shortening
1/3 cup cold water
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in shortening  until mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a separate bowl, whisk together water, egg yolk, vanilla extract, and vinegar. 
Stir into flour mixture and knead dough briefly, just until smooth.  Divide the dough into two
and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Place in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes before rolling
out.  Pastry is easier to work with when chilled.  It can also be stored in refrigerator for up
to one week.

Makes two crusts.


Crust adapted from allrecipes.com

Pie Filling

4 heaping cups of hulled, chopped or thinly sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar or splenda
2 tbsp minute tapioca
1 tsp vanilla

Mix the pie filling in a bowl and add to the pie shell with the rolled out bottom pie crust.  Place the top rolled out pie crust, cut the edges of the crust that hangs over, press down with your fingers or fork all along the rim of the pie plate and then using a fork, make a number of spears into the crust in order to let the steam out.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for 30 minutes.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

NICKY'S LENTIL SOUP


A restaurant that I have gone to over the years is known for a few of their dishes including their lentil soup.  The owner, Nicky, even gives out the recipe.  He has nothing to hide.  I recently made lentil soup using his recipe and of course I tweaked it and modified a few of the ingredients.  I added a wedge of chopped cabbage to the soup.  Since I didn't have tomato juice in the cupboards, I pureed a few tomatoes to make juice.  I didn't add the bay leaves for any other reason than just not adding them.  I also used an electric pressure cooker to make the soup and set it at medium pressure for 16 minutes.  Since there is an abundance of parsley in the garden, I added about half of cup of fresh chopped parsley along with fresh dill.  Another variation that you could do is instead of adding the fresh cabbage, you could add some sauerkraut instead.

The soup turned out to be delicious and both the DH and I enjoyed it this past week.  There is still another serving or two in the fridge which I may freeze for future work lunches.


A bowl of lentil soup 


INGREDIENTS:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 wedge of cabbage, chopped (optional)
2 cups green lentils
1 large can diced or chopped tomatoes
2 cups tomato juice or 5 tomatoes pureed into juice
9 cups water or stock
1/4 to 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1-2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large soup pot, heat the oil on medium high heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic and sauté for 10 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil and then simmer, stirring occasionally.   Cook for an hour to 90 minutes, until the beans and vegetables are soft.  Serves 8.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

FISH WITH HERB PESTO

The word pesto is derived from the Genoese word 'pesta' which means to pound and to crush.  This is likely because it was originally made with using a pestle and mortar to pound the ingredients.  The modern day pesto uses basil, oil, garlic, grated hard cheese such as parmesan and basil but depending on the region or country, not all use pine nuts.  Different regions or countries will use other herbs besides basil and may almonds or tomatoes in making the paste.  I don't think the original pesto was used for fish but was added to pasta.

I made this pesto using a combination of basil and parsley to accompany baked halibut.  I made more pesto than what was needed for a pound of fish.  I also didn't finely chop the pesto and make it really smooth.  It had some texture to it.  To make it smoother I would have had to add a little bit of water or olive oil.  I also did not add grated cheese to the recipe.  Adding a bit of cheese could have helped in making a smoother paste.

The pesto did add wonderful flavour to the halibut and both the DH and I enjoyed this dish.



Halibut with pesto.


INGREDIENTS:

1 pound halibut, cod or other fish fillet, cut into four pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Pesto

1/2 cup parsley, basil combo
3 tbsp dill
3 tbsp roasted almonds, whole or slivered
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Using a small blender, add the herbs and nuts.  Using the pulse feature, pulse a number of times to finely chop the mixture.  Add the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Blend until smooth or coarse if you want to have more texture.  If the pesto is too dry, add one tablespoon of water to make a smoother paste.  This makes more than what is required for the cooked halibut. Set the pesto aside in order to cook the fish.

Heat a non stick frying pan on medium high and add the oil.  Once hot, add the fish and salt and pepper to your taste.  Reduce heat to medium and cook about five to six minutes on each side to golden brown.  

Add a spoonful of pesto to the fish once it is plated.  Serves 3 to 4 depending on appetite. 




Saturday, July 19, 2014

THE DOG


My four legged companion Shane is turning nine this weekend.   Time has gone by quickly.  From getting him when he was a pup and lying on my lap in the car (I wasn't driving) going to his new home to the present day, a lot has happened.  He has been a busy fellow:

  • he has had some major surgeries, 
  • chewed a number of shoes, 
  • damaged some underground sprinkler lines in the background, 
  • pulled a toilet paper rod holder off the wall which resulted in patching a wall and repainting a bathroom,
  • chewed two seat belts in the back seat of a car,
  • rolled in some awful smelling stuff on a number of occasions, 
  • cools off in the fish pond in the backyard and disregards his own wading pool,  
  • has mastered the art of licking a bowl,
  • developed a fondness for ice cream, carrots, banana and peanut butter,
  • discovered how to pick cucumbers off of the vine and dig for carrots,
  • taking food off of the kitchen counter,
  • learned to supervise me while I prepare and cook meals,
  • took a number of obedience classes, 
  • attempted but never succeeded mastering agility competitions (too many distractions),
  • never met a ball he didn't like,
  • loves his morning walk, and
  • loves to grab socks, gloves or shoes and trot off with them.

All dogs are wonderful and I have never met a cat or dog owner who doesn't like to talk about their pet.  Lab retrievers never quite grow up and I reckon that he will have that teenager dog sense of play  until his dying days.  He is a very social dog and on our daily walks, has managed to suck up to several walkers, non dog owners, who have to stop to pet him, praise him and tell him what a good boy he is.  This can happen on a daily basis.  I like to call him the Johnny Carson on the walking path.  All he needs is a chair and couch and he could have a reality TV show.

I have posted some pictures to share of the one and only Shane.