Saturday, September 17, 2016

TOMATO JAM

Several years ago I made a tomato pate using small cherry tomatoes.  I used it as an appetizer and made enough that I would be taking it to friends' homes when invited over for a meal.  I had been thinking about making this pate again as the recent tomato haul from the garden was pretty good.  There are lots of tomatoes to use and to just freeze them doesn't help me as there are still frozen tomatoes in the freezer from last summer.  Recently a friend posted a recipe on facebook for tomato jam that she had just made.  She thought it was great.  This recipe is a bit different than the one I made several years ago.  I thought I would try it as variety is always good.  The original recipe called for 3/4 of a cup of sugar but I thought that would be too much so I decreased the quantity.  I also used only 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes instead of a full teaspoon.  I don't always seed tomatoes when using in recipes but I did seed these and it does make a difference especially as the tomatoes are cooked down and you don't want to a concentration of tomato seeds.  For the tomato pate recipe that I made several years ago, the cherry tomatoes were not seeded (that would have been a futile exercise seeding small cherry tomatoes) and I found it to a very dense seedy pate.

What do you use tomato jam for?  Tomato jam can be used in place of ketchup, on a cracker with cheese, as an ingredient in salad dressing, in a grilled cheese sandwich or used as the sauce in a pizza.

To cook the jam, I used a Staub cast iron cooking pot.  Le Creuset or other heavy cooking pots would also work to cook this jam for several hours and not worry about it sticking to the bottom of the pot.  The jam is very good and the red pepper flakes add enough zip to make it more of a bolder taste.

Jam starting to cook for the next few hours.

INGREDIENTS:

1/3  cup sugar
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
10 cups of ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded, coarsely chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 tsp kosher salt

DIRECTIONS:

Add the sugar, vinegar and water to a 6 quart heavy duty cooking pot.  Heat to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for about five minutes.  Stir occasionally as you want the liquid mixture to be a bit syrupy.  Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes and salt.  Heat to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 2 to 2.5 hours until the tomato jam has thickened.  Stir occasionally especially as it thickens.  Season with more salt if required and let cool.  Place into small jars and either keep in the fridge or freeze.  If left in the fridge it should last for several weeks.  Makes about 3 cups.

Adapted from www.finecooking.com

Saturday, September 10, 2016

STACKED VEGETABLE CASSEROLE

In a recent post, I provided a recipe for an eggplant, zucchini and tomato bake.  This recipe also uses eggplant, zucchini and tomato but it is prepared differently and includes leftover mashed potatoes.  I like this recipe as the bottom layer of mashed potatoes acts as crust and also soaks up the juices from the vegetables.  I used a large pan for this casserole and took leftovers for lunches for several days.  Leftover casserole was a good change from soup for lunches.  


Layer of mashed potatoes as the base.

Next layer is eggplant.

Zucchini is layered over the eggplant.

Sliced tomatoes over the zucchini.

Cheese including fresh mozzarella was added during the baking.  Vegetable casserole ready for eating.
INGREDIENTS:

leftover mashed potatoes, about 3 medium to large mashed potatoes
1 eggplant, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium size zucchini, thinly sliced
1 can of sliced mushrooms or 6 fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 red or sweet onion, chopped
3 tomatoes, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
cheese for topping - cheddar, fresh mozzarella or feta

oil for greasing casserole dish

DIRECTIONS:

Grease a large pan, 9 X 11 or 9 X 13.  Place a base layer of mashed potatoes and spread evenly across the pan.  Add the next layer of eggplant followed by the zucchini.  Distribute the onion and mushrooms across the pan and then add the tomatoes.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Place the pan in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.  Halfway through the baking, pull the pan out of the oven and add the shredded or sliced cheese based on personal preference.  Return the pan to the oven to finish baking.  Serves 8.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

SLOW COOKER SPAGHETTI SAUCE

While visiting friends several weeks ago, they served this spaghetti sauce over homemade pasta.  It was delicious.  They had already made a batch of this sauce and froze it in containers for future meals so it was simple meal to put together as the homemade pasta was also made in advance and had been frozen.

With the tomatoes ripening from the garden, I had over 20 tomatoes that needed to be processed, frozen or cooked with.  I decided to make this spaghetti sauce and got the recipe from my friends.  She had gotten this recipe from a friend of hers many years ago. The recipe comes from this site.  I have provided the original recipe and directions in this post.  

I made some changes as I wanted to use fresh tomatoes, I didn't want to use tomato sauce and I decided to add a small can of tomato paste.  I skinned and cored about 20 to 25 tomatoes, then coarsely chopped them and added them to the crockpot.  For the ground beef I used lean ground beef and for the sausage I used one mild italian sausage and one hot italian sausage.  These sausages are made in one of the grocery stores that I frequent.  I also added two stalks of chopped celery to the crockpot.  I didn't add any bay leaves to the recipe and used frozen basil leaves. 

Instead of cooking this sauce during the day, I decided to cook it overnight and put all of the ingredients together in the evening and just let it simmer away overnight.  I woke up to the smell of spaghetti sauce.  It had been simmering for ten hours.  It needed a few good stirs.  There was some sauce stuck to the bottom of the pot which I worked at to loosen it up.  The downside of cooking this overnight is that you can't open the crockpot lid and stir it every hour or two.  Since the sauce was more liquidity than I liked, I added two more tablespoons of minute tapioca.  I turned the cooking heat off of the crockpot and let it sit for two hours.  After some taste testing and asking the DH for his sampling opinion, I added a little bit of splenda and agave.  It needed something to counter balance the acidity from the tomatoes.  I didn't seed the tomatoes that I added and seeds when cooked over a period of time can add a bitter taste.  All in all the spaghetti sauce tastes great and I will make this again.  Since it is a large batch, I will freeze it in batches for future meals.  If you want to make this into a vegan or vegetarian sauce you can easily substitute the beef and sausage for a soy based product. 

All ingredients added and ready to be simmered for 10 to 12 hours.


Ingredients:

1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb Italian sausage
1 onion; chopped
2 garlic clove; minced
2 cans of tomatoes; 16 oz each, chopped
2 cans tomato sauce; 8 oz each
2 cans mushrooms; drained and chopped 
1 green or coloured pepper; chopped
4 tbsp quick cooking tapioca 
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dry basil, or use fresh - 6 to 8 leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a frying pan on medium high, add the ground beef, sausage, onion, and garlic until meat is brown and onion is tender; drain off fat.  I added a little bit of oil and cooked the onion and garlic first for a few minutes. 

While the meat is cooking, into a medium to large size crockpot, combine undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce, mushrooms, green pepper, tapioca, bay leaves, oregano, basil, pepper, and salt. Stir in the browned meat mixture. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 10-12 hours or high heat setting for 5-6 hours. Remove bay leaves.  Makes 8-10 servings. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

EGGPLANT, ZUCCHINI AND TOMATO BAKE

I don't buy eggplant all the time though I do like it.  I bought two eggplants the other day at one of the local grocery stores.  I decided to make a simple vegetable casserole with eggplant, zucchini, onions, tomatoes, celery and red pepper.  You can also add sliced mushrooms if you wanted.  The following pictures show the layering I did with the vegetables and parmesan cheese.  I used more of a shallow dish but if you used a deeper dish you could layer the eggplant, zucchini and tomato mixture and then repeat these layers topped with parmesan cheese.   The dish was delicious and it was not overly tomatoey like a lasagna.





After baking.


INGREDIENTS:

1 tbsp high temperature cooking oil, e.g. avocado or grape seed
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 red pepper, diced
3 medium size tomatoes. chopped
1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced into rounds, about 1/4 inch thick
1 large zucchini, sliced in half, and then sliced lengthwise, less than 1/4 inch thick
1/2 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

In a non stick pan, heat the oil on medium high heat.  Add the onions, celery and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes.  Add the red pepper and tomatoes, reduce heat to medium and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the italian seasoning and combine with the tomato onion mixture.  Remove from heat.

Using a 13 inch baking casserole dish which I added coated with a little bit of oil, layer the eggplant, followed by the zucchini.  Then add the tomato onion mixture and speed it over the zucchini slices.  Top with the grated parmesan cheese.  Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

KOREAN BEEF SHORT RIBS

I use my slow cooker throughout the year, it is a cooking tool that I use even if it is a warm sunny day.  Some foods taste better in a slow cooker than on a barbecue.  I bought a package of boneless beef short ribs to make for a Sunday supper meal knowing that I could probably get another one to two meals from it to have during the week.  When buying packages of meat at Costco I don't buy the largest package nor do I always buy the smallest package, I settle on something in between.  What I like about these boneless ribs is that the fat has been trimmed and they still have marbling but not excessive amounts of fat that I would feel the need to trim away.  They are also long strips of meat which I cut in half to make it easier to searing and cooking.

In thinking about recipes I decided to look at a new cookbook I recently bought by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong.  The name of the book is 'nom nom paleo'.   Michelle Tam has a good website and I knew about her recipes and style of cooking before I bought the book.  The cookbook has great illustrations and it also provides information on basic cooking techniques.  I decided to try this recipe in her cookbook based on a few things.  I liked the sauce you poured over the beef short ribs and I happened to have an Asian pear that is used in the sauce.  You don't need to use an asian pear, you can also use a regular pear and if you didn't have a pear I would use an apple.  The recipe is based on six pounds of bone-in beef short ribs.  I had a smaller amount of boneless ribs, 2.3 pounds so I decreased the amount of each of the ingredients by two thirds but I added the whole Asian pear.  I didn't add the broth as I thought the sauce would provide enough liquid.  One of the ingredients is coconut aminos which is used instead of soy sauce.  I have coconut amines and when I opened up this new bottle it looked like it had fermented.  Instead I added Dr. Bragg liquid soy seasoning which I use instead of the regular soy sauce.  The recipe also calls for fish sauce which I didn't have so I left it out.  I used a shallot instead of scallions called for in the recipe ingredients.  If you can sear the meat before putting it in the slow cooker it adds to the flavour.  I seared the meat in a large cast iron frying plan on top of the stove.  Another option is to broil the meat in the oven for five minutes on each of both sides of the strips of the ribs.  Slow cooking the ribs for 7 to 7.5 hours was enough cooking time.

Once the ribs finished cooking and it was plated, I asked the DH if he liked it - he said they were pretty good.


Seared ribs wedged in on the bottom of the slow cooker with the sauce starting to be added.

Strips of boneless ribs piled on a serving plate.

Baby potatoes served with ribs. 


The flowing link to the recipe on Michele Tam's website is where you will find the recipe - slow cooker korean beef short ribs.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

RHUBARB CAKE

It is that time of year again - rhubarb is coming up in the garden.  With an upcoming potluck at work, I decided to make rhubarb cake.  I doubled the recipe provided below and it was not any more difficult to make.  You can also create a crunch topping of butter, cinnamon and sugar to add to the top of the batter in the baking pan but I skipped doing that.  I thought that the cake would be sweet enough and the crunch topping would make more crumbles which I want to avoid since I will be cutting the cake into servings beforehand.  I didn't have buttermilk so I used almond milk and added a tablespoon of vinegar to the measuring cup to sour the milk about 10 minutes prior to adding it the batter.   Great tasting rhubarb cake!

The mix master does a great job in combining all of the ingredients.

Ready for the oven. 
Out of the oven and cooling.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup butter or vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup buttermilk 

2 cups rhubarb, chopped into small pieces
1 tbsp flour

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl or mix master, cream the butter and sugar.  Add the egg and vanilla and combine well.   In another bowl mix the flour, baking soda and salt.  Instead of adding all at once the flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter sugar mixture, add the flour and buttermilk mixture in portions and mix after both portions are added to the butter sugar mixture.  Using a mix master, I had it mixing the whole time and added the flour mixture and buttermilk in 1/3 portions.  Using the empty bowl from the flour mixture, add the chopped rhubarb and tablespoon of flour.  Mix the flour around the rhubarb and then add this to the cake batter. Mix well. 

Pour the batter into a 9 X 13 inch baking pan.  I lined the baking pan with parchment paper to make it easier to cut into portions once it cooled after baking.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until done.  Makes about 16 - 18 servings.

Modified from all recipes. com

Sunday, May 22, 2016

CAULIFLOWER VEGETABLE SOUP WITH DILL

Cauliflower is not as expensive as it once was during the winter and I have started to buy it more often.  I have a few favourite recipes for cauliflower and one of them is including it in soup.  I also love dill and the addition of dill to any soup always adds great flavour.  Dill grows in my garden and I freeze it during the summer and fall for future use.  I will even freeze the fresh dill that I buy in the grocery store if I am not using it fast enough and I don't want it to spoil in the fridge.  A bowl of this soup can be capped off with a tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese. 



INGREDIENTS:

2 tbsp oil or butter

2 cloves of garlic minced
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium potatoes, chopped
1 medium head cauliflower, chopped
4 cups of broth - vegetable or chicken
1 tsp dried dill or fresh to taste
salt and pepper to taster
1 cup milk

DIRECTIONS:

In a large soup pot, heat the oil or butter on medium high and add the garlic and onions.  Saute for five minutes on medium low.  Add the carrots, celery and potatoes and cook for another five minutes. Add the broth and cauliflower and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and look for 30 to 45 minutes.  Using an immersion hand blender, puree about half of the soup, add the milk, dill and salt and pepper and let it heat for five minutes.  Serves 6.


Modified from all recipes.com

Saturday, May 7, 2016

VEGETABLE TOMATO LENTIL SOUP

At work we talk about recipes and food that we are considering making.  One colleague brings a wonderful looking vegetable lentil soup from time to time.  We have all admired her soup and she has shared the recipe with us along with samples one lunchtime.  I made it today and actually made it overnight using a crock pot.  Friday morning I started to soak the lentils and let them swell in the fridge for the day.  You are probably wondering why I soaked the lentils as they don't need to be soaked prior to cooking.  I soaked them in order to limit the amount of liquid they absorb while cooking.  If you only have a short time to get these lentils to soften up, soaking them ahead of cooking will definitely help.  Friday night I assembled all of the ingredients and added them to the slow cooker.  I also added some leftover cooked sausage (1 1/2 sausage) and a can of sliced mushrooms.  I didn't have any canned tomato soup in the pantry so I added a small can of tomato paste.  Because the tomato paste would provide a concentrated taste of tomatoes, I added two small frozen tomatoes instead of a large can of diced tomatoes.  I set the timer for nine hours before going to bed.  Upon waking up this morning, I smelled the wonderful flavours of this soup.  The chopped spinach was added for the last fifteen minutes of cooking time.

The soup has a great taste and will be consumed for lunches this week.






VEGETABLE TOMATO LENTIL SOUP

1 ½ tsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken broth
1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes, diced
1 - 10 ounce can undiluted tomato soup
2 cups brown or green lentils (washed)
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cups yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 ½ tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 cups packed fresh spinach, chopped

Soaking the lentils:
To reduce the amount of liquid that the lentils absorb while cooking, you can presoak them.  Put the two cups of lentils into a four cup measuring cup and fill it to the four cup level with water.  The lentils will swell to the top of the measuring cup.  Instead of keeping the lentils in the four cup measuring cup to absorb the water, I transferred them to a mixing bowl that was larger than a four cup measuring cup.  I was worried about the lentils flowing over the top but as I found out later, they will only swell up to the amount of liquid provided.  I let the lentils soak for the day as I made the soup overnight in the slow cooker.

Stove top option:
Sauté onions, celery and garlic in oil for three to four minutes.  Add remaining ingredients, except spinach.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add spinach and simmer for 15 more minutes.  Serves 8. 

Slow cooker option:

Add all of the ingredients except for the spinach to a 7 quart or larger slow cooker.  Cook for eight to nine hours on low temperature.  Add the chopped spinach and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.  Serves 8.

Recipe modified from Breasts of Friends. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

CAULIFLOWER, BROCCOLI AND CARROT SALAD

I recently made this salad for a supper that I was going to.  Everyone was bringing a dish.  I wanted to bring a combination of broccoli and cauliflower but didn't want to cook it as there was a chance it would get overcooked with reheating at the host's home.  A marinated salad was an option but I wanted to make a dressing that was not the usual Italian based marinade.  I like making salad dressings with tahini and lemon juice and knew that the flavours would add taste to broccoli and cauliflower.  This salad involves some chopping and it can be made hours ahead of serving.  When cutting up the cauliflower and broccoli, I discard the large stems and chop the florets for the salad.  I made enough salad for a large group of people.



INGREDIENTS:

1/2 head of a large cauliflower, chopped
3 cups broccoli, chopped 
3 large carrots, chopped 
1 stalk celery, diced 

Dressing:

4 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp water
3 tbsp tahini
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

  • DIRECTIONS:
Add the salad ingredients to large bowl.  Mix the dressing ingredients in a two cup measuring cup or a small bowl and combine well using a fork.  If the dressing is too tart for you, add a little bit of honey or maple syrup.  Pour the dressing over the salad and thoroughly mix.  Let it sit for a few hours in the fridge before serving.  Serves 8.   

Sunday, April 17, 2016

SLOW COOKER BEEF SHORT RIBS

Over the past few months I have been making beef short ribs, with the bone and also boneless.  I have cooked them in the oven at a low temperature and without much liquid.  After buying a package yesterday at Costco of boneless short ribs, I decided to make them in the slow cooker.  I like to brown the short ribs before cooking them as searing them adds flavour and some of the fat drains off from the meat.  I also have tomatoes frozen from last year's garden and one method I have been using to use them is to put a number of them semi frozen into a blender with a little bit of water to puree them.  They can be added in this form to soups and to slow cooker recipes.  For this short rib recipe I added pureed tomatoes.  I had pureed enough tomatoes to also add them to soup I am making for the week - sausage barley vegetable soup.  Instead of pureed tomatoes, you can add a large size can (28 ounces) of diced tomatoes.

Just from the smells coming from the slow cooker, I know that the beef short ribs will be delicious.

Browning short ribs.

Onions up next being sautéed. 

Semi frozen tomatoes added to the blender to be pureed. 

Added the sautéed onions to the short cooker.

Tomatoes added to the slow cooker.

Spread the tomatoes to cover the onions and meat.


INGREDIENTS:

2 to 3 pounds of boneless short ribs
1 medium onion. chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp oil
6 tomatoes, pureed
salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Using a large heavy frying pan, add the oil and heat to medium high heat.  If the strips of short ribs are long, cut them in half and trim any fat that you don't want.  Place the beef short ribs in the pan, add some salt and pepper and cook each side for four to five minutes.  I reduced the heat to medium.  I added salt and pepper to each side.  Place the short ribs into the bottom of the slow cooker.

From frying the short ribs there should be enough fat to sauté the onions.  Saute the onions for a few minutes on medium heat in the frying pan and watch them so that they don't get too brown and the edges burn.  I moved them around while sautéing them with a spoon.  Reduce the heat if the onions are getting too brown.  Remove the onions from the frying pan and add them to the slow cooker.  Add the garlic to the slow cooker spreading it over the onions.  Add the pureed tomatoes to the slow cooker and spread them over the onions and meat. Place the lid on the slow cooker.

Cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours.  Serves 4 to 6.