Sunday, July 30, 2017

BLUEBERRY CRISP ON THE BBQ

As it is the season for berries, it is hard to resist buying more berries than you can consume. Furthermore, some of the berries that you may have bought are getting soft. A large clamshell of blueberries that we had bought were getting soft. The options were to either freeze the berries or use them in baking. Since it has been so warm outside, turning on the oven did not seem to be a good idea. I decided to bake the crisp on the barbecue. Having already baked a cherry crisp and pies on the barbecue this summer, I decided to bake a crisp using a round speckled blue roasting pan that normally is used to cook a small roast or chicken. I won't use glass or ceramic baking dishes on the barbecue. I prefer to use metal. Using a barbecue for cooking is very handy when you don't want to heat up your kitchen.

This recipe calls for four cups of berries. I had about 3 cups of fresh blueberries and added some frozen mixed berries to make the four cups. I used Splenda in this recipe. 

10 inch round speckled blue roasting pan.

The four cups of berries before and after adding the sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and flour.

Before and after adding the oil to the topping mixture. 

Ready for baking.

Baking on the barbecue.

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup sugar or Splenda
zest and juice from one lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp flour

Topping:

3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup sugar, options: 1/4 cup brown +1/4 cup white or Splenda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter or coconut oil
1/2 cup almonds or pecans plus a few extra for the topping

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium size bowl mix the blueberries, sugar, zest and lemon juice, cinnamon and flour. Combine well.

In a separate bowl mix together the flour, oatmeal, sugar and salt. Add the coconut oil or butter and mix together using a pastry blender or mixing spoon depending on the softness of the oil. The coconut oil I used was soft because it is summer time and I used a mixing spoon. I just blended the oil throughout the dry mixture. If the butter or coconut oil is hard, use a pastry blender and blend until the topping looks like crumbles. Add the 1/2 cup of nuts. I used pecan halves and did not chop them. Mix the topping with nuts. I added the nuts to the dry mixture before I added the soft coconut oil as the oil was very soft due to the warm kitchen.

Oil a medium size pan and add the blueberry mixture. Pat it down into the pan. Add the topping evenly over the blueberries and top with a few almonds or pecans if you wish. 

If using a barbecue, preheat the barbecue to 400 degrees F and place the pan over an unheated burner/element. Bake for about 60 minutes.

If using an oven, place into a preheated oven of 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is browned. Let the crisp cool before serving. Serves 6 or more depending on appetites. 

Adapted from natashaskitchen.com

Sunday, July 16, 2017

ORZO ARTICHOKE CHICK PEA SALAD

Orzo salads have been a summer time salad for me as opposed to making and eating it year round. There is no reason why you can't make it year round. I tried this salad recently at a pot luck and got the recipe. It was such a good salad and included some of my favourite ingredients: chick peas, artichokes, spinach, feta cheese, fresh basil and caraway seed. My friend who made this recipe got it from her friend. I made a few tweaks to the salad ingredients. 

There are a few changes you can make to the salad. You can cook half a cup of orzo instead of three quarters of a cup and add more spinach; you can add chopped fresh mint instead of basil; you can add chopped black olives; you don't have to add parsley; and, if you don't like caraway seeds you can leave it out of the salad. 

Orzo cooling.

I used these artichokes which I drained and chopped.

Ingredients being added to salad.

Chick peas and feta cheese added.

Salad mixed and dressing will be added before serving.

INGREDIENTS:
3/4 cup uncooked orzo pasta
5 to 6 artichoke hearts, canned or marinated, drained and chopped
1.5 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach 
1.5 tbsp capers
3 green onions, chopped 
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled or very small pieces
10 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup or less fresh parsley, chopped
1.5 tbsp caraway seeds

Dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1.5 tbsp maple or agave syrup
lemon zest from 1/2 medium size lemon 
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Cook the orzo according to directions on the package. Best to not overcook the pasta. Drain once it is cooked, rinse with cold water, drain and let cool in a colander. 

While the orzo is cooling assemble the rest of the salad ingredients and add everything to a large mixing bowl including the orzo. Combine well. Prepare the dressing separately and add the dressing to the salad before serving. Serves 4 to 6. 

Leftover salad can be placed in the fridge and it will last for 2 plus days. If there is too much dressing in the salad, the spinach gets soggy over time in the fridge. 

There may be more dressing made than what you want to add to the salad. The unused salad dressing can be placed in the fridge and used for other green and vegetable salads. 



Saturday, July 8, 2017

BAKING PIES ON THE BBQ


With the weather so hot it is hard to want to turn on the oven to make pies. I have been picking cherries off of the trees and rhubarb from the garden. I had already picked, pitted and froze eight cups of cherries earlier this week. Either I had to freeze these cherries and rhubarb for future baking or think of other options in order to do some baking. I thought of using the barbecue. I had never baked before on the barbecue and did some research by asking some friends and going online. No one I had talked to had baked pies on the barbecue. Some had make pizza. What I read included baking over an element that is not turned on or baking over an inverted pie plate that created a bridge between the actual burner and the pie plate. I also read to use aluminum pie plates and to not use glass or enamelled pie plates like an Emile Henry. Since our barbecue has a second rack above the main rack, I decided to bake the pies on the second rack. It would be off direct heat and in many ways it was like an oven.

I kept the barbecue temperature at about 400 degrees F and the pies took just over an hour to cook. The gas barbecue is large and has five burners. I turned on only three of them. I could have turned on four of them. After about 40 minutes I moved some of the pies around on the second rack as I noticed some were cooking faster than others.

I would definitely do this again and bake not only pies but other food. In making these pies, I decided to not have a full crust on the top as I wanted to watch the fruit and see if it was cooking and also get an idea of how the crust would bake.

Here is the link for a previous posted recipe for cherry pie. This recipe includes the pie crust and filling. I used the pie crust recipe from Tenderflake as it makes three double pie crusts (tenderflake pie crust recipe.). This is a fail safe recipe for me. I use Crisco instead of Tenderflake and I mix the dough in a mixmaster.

Provided below is my standard rhubarb pie filling. You can add strawberries or cherries to the chopped rhubarb. I had some extra cherries that couldn't make it into the pie and I added them to the rhubarb filling.

Rhubarb Pie Filling

4 cups rhubarb, chopped
2/3 cups sugar or Splenda
3 tbsp flour or minute tapioca
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Cherry filling added to the pie crust.

Not a pretty way to layer the dough on top.

Rhubarb filling added to the pie crust.

My version of a galette, not very pretty.

Baking on the top rack of the barbecue. The lid was closed while they baked.

Cherry pie cooling on top of the stove.


Monday, July 3, 2017

GARLIC HERB BUTTER

I forgot how good garlic herb butter tastes. I got reminded about making compound butter which is really butter with added stuff, when I asked a friend what she was making with her garlic scapes from the garden. This year the garlic that was planted in the fall came up and we had planted hard neck garlic cloves. I have much to learn about different kinds of garlic and the various varieties. I have seen garlic scapes being sold in the farmer's market. Last week I saw garlic scapes being sold for $1 a scape at the market. The scapes were larger than the ones I harvested from my own garden garlic but a $1 a scape is still expensive.

All garlic produces a stalk but the hard neck garlic produces a stalk that curls and that is why they are called scapes. They start to curl as they get longer while growing. Some growers like to snap them off the stem once they curl and before they get too long and fibrous. Other growers like to cut them off. There is a bulb at the end of the stalk and you don't use these in your cooking I am told. If you were growing your own garlic as seed, you would leave them on as this bulb can be planted as seed. I have read that it takes a few years of planting to get a big enough bulb to plant to produce a large garlic bulb for eating. There is a short time period to remove the scapes for eating. You don't want the scapes to get too long as you want the scapes to be tender for use in cooking.

With company coming over for supper and knowing they love garlic bread, I decided to make my own garlic herb butter using fresh garlic scapes and herbs from the garden. If you don't have garlic scapes, you can use fresh minced garlic. For bread, I wanted a baguette but the store I went to only made baguette rolls that day. I bought them and they were crusty and chewy which works well for toasting in the oven. The toasted garlic herb bread was inhaled and immensely enjoyed by all.

Garlic scape used to make garlic herb butter.

Sliced rolls ready for toasting.

Toasted and ready to be eaten with a salad.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
2 garlic scapes, chopped or one large garlic glove minced
1 small sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped
1 small sprig of fresh thyme. chopped
2 shoots of fresh dill, chopped

Baguettes, sliced

DIRECTIONS:

Soften the butter in a medium size bowl. Add the chopped fresh herbs to the butter and using a fork, thoroughly mix the herbs with the butter. Depending on how strong you want the butter, you may need to add more garlic or herbs.

Spread the butter on the cut baguettes and toast in the oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F.  You can also toast thinly sliced pieces of baguettes in a toaster and then butter them after toasting.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

HERB HUMMUS

Quite a few years ago I used to make my own hummus and ate it quite frequently. I ate it so often that I needed to take a break from it as I couldn't stand to eat it anymore. Eventually over time, I started to buy hummus from the grocery store and got back into eating it but not as an every day staple. I would buy different kinds of hummus - garlic, red pepper, artichoke and onion. I would have trouble eating all of the hummus I would buy if I bought it from Costco as the containers are large and sometimes you get two in a package. The DH wouldn't eat hummus as frequently as I did so the hummus would sometimes spoil before I could consume it all. 

I had the bright idea this week to make hummus instead of buying it and I could make a smaller batch. I am also trying to eat less cheese and hummus is a great substitute for me as a snack or to spread on veggies or bread as part of a meal. In making this herb hummus I used fresh chives, mint and parsley from the garden. I also used canned chickpeas with no added salt. Instead of using canned chickpeas, you could use dry chickpeas and cook them ahead of time. The flavours of the herbs, chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, tahini and agave syrup are a great combination. The hummus turned out great and the DH said he liked it and it passed his seal of approval. 


After mixing in the small food processor.

Ready for sampling.

INGREDIENTS:

1 glove garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
zest of one lemon, optional
1/4 cup tahini
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil 
1 small bunch of parsley
6 fresh stalks of chives
6 fresh mint leaves
1.5 tsp maple syrup or agave
1 large can, 540 ml, of chick peas, drained and rinsed
up to 1/4 cup of water 
salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a food processor, add the garlic, cumin, lemon juice, olive oil and agave/maple syrup. Puree to make a paste. Coarsely chop the herbs and add them to the food processor. Puree the herbs with the paste. Add the chickpeas and bit of salt to taste. Puree the mixture. You can add a bit of water to thin out the hummus and get the consistency you want. If you like hummus to be very smooth, puree for longer. Makes 2 cups. Store in a container with a lid in the fridge. Will keep for five days.

Adapted from Naturally Nourished by Sarah Britton.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

BANANA PEANUT BUTTER OATMEAL COOKIES

With having enough bananas frozen in the freezer, I decided to make these banana peanut butter oatmeal cookies using ripe bananas that were not going to be eaten by myself or the DH. I prefer firmer versus soft bananas and once soft, they get frozen to use in smoothies. I adapted this recipe from Mark Bittman's cookbook 'How to Bake Everything'. The cookies use rolled oats and no flour. Since the bananas are sweet, minimal sugar is added. For fat, I used coconut oil. This is the oil that reminds me of Crisco, it is not liquid. It does get softer in the pantry during the summer months as compared to winter when the temperatures are colder. I used chopped almonds for the 1/2 cup of nuts in the ingredient list. I made a few modifications which I included in the ingredients. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of rolled oats. I added another 1/4 cup or so as I thought the batter was not thick enough. This can be due to using agave instead of dry sugar. The original recipe also calls for toasting the roll oat flakes in the oven for 15 minutes before making the cookies and I deleted that step. 

The cookies were delicious and got the stamp of approval. You could have these for breakfast as an option.


Cookies cooling on the cookie sheet. 
Sampling the cookies.

INGREDIENTS:

4 tbsp butter or coconut oil, melted 
3 large ripe bananas
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
3 tbsp PB2 (powdered peanut butter)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3 tbsp sugar, dry or agave or maple syrup
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon 

If you don't use PD2, you can use 1/2 cup peanut butter instead of the butter or coconut oil. The peanut butter will need to be softened first in the microwave.

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Add the melted fat and vanilla and mix. Add the egg and combine well. If you are using the PB2 powder add it to this wet mixture. If you are using agave or maple syrup also add it to the wet mixture and combine.  

In a separate medium size bowl, mix the oats, sugar (if using), nuts, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.   

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until combined.

Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease it. Drop the batter by large tablespoons onto the cookie sheets with about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Let cool on the cookie sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to finish cooling. Store in a container in the fridge. Makes between 1.5 to 2 dozen cookies. 

Adapted from Mark Bittman 'How to Bake Everything'.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

LEMON RASPBERRY MUFFINS

The DH likes fresh berries with his morning cereal. Sometimes the raspberries spoil too quickly in the container and I hate throwing them out in in the compost bin as they are pricier berries. An option is to use them in baking or freeze them for smoothies. Recently there was a container of fresh raspberries in the fridge that were looking like they needed to be eaten or cooked with, so I made a batch of lemon raspberry muffins. Friends were over visiting and helped with the sampling. Everyone enjoyed the muffins.

Flour mixture, wet ingredients and raspberries.

Ready for going into the oven.

Just out of the oven.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup plain yogurt, I used Greek 0% fat yogurt
3 tbsp vegetable oil or mild olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar, I used Splenda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1-2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 generous cup of fresh or frozen raspberries


DIRECTIONS:

In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg. Add the yogurt, oil and lemon juice and mix well. In a larger bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and zest. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the flour mixture. Combine and try to not over mix. If the batter is too stiff, add a little bit of milk. I found the batter to be stiff and I ended up adding 1/4 cup almond milk. Add the raspberries and combine.

Spoon the batter into muffins cups. I use muffin cup liners to make it easier to get the cooked muffins out of the individual tins. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 18 to 20 minutes. Makes 12 to 16 muffins depending on the size of your muffin tin.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

CARAMELIZED ONION TART

After spending some time reviewing the recipes in a new cookbook I got - Moosewood Restaurant Favorites, I decided to make a caramelized onion tart for supper. The tart or pie consists of caramelized onions, eggs, milk, five thin strips of chopped cooked bacon, about 1/4 cup shredded goat and vegan cheese baked in a pie shell. I made a few adaptations from the original recipe. I added chopped cooked bacon and left out a cup of cheese. I didn't have the hard cheeses suggested in the recipe and secondly, I am trying to decrease the amount of cheese and dairy I consume. Instead of first layering the onions and cheese on the bottom of the pie shell followed by adding the egg mixture, I combined the egg mixture, onion and bit of cheese together in the mixing bowl and added it to the pie shell. 

The tart turned out well and the DH went back for seconds. 

Top photo of onions starting to cook and bottom photo of onions after 25 minutes.
Ready to be served.


INGREDIENTS:

one pie crust for a 9 or 10 inch pie plate

Pie Filling

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil or other oil for sautéing
4 cups thinly sliced onions
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
4 large eggs
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp black pepper (I use less)
1 1/4 cups of milk (I use almond milk)
1 cup shredded sharp cheese
1/4 cup shredded smoked cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Make the pie crust dough or use a prepared bought pie dough

In a large frying pan, heat the oil on medium high heat. Add the onions, 1/2 tsp salt and dried thyme. If using fresh thyme, you will add it later. Sauté the onions for 5 minutes while they become translucent. Reduce the heat to low and cook the onions until they are very soft, browned and caramelized. They should cook for about 30 minutes and every few minutes stir the onions. If they are sticking add a little bit of water. Scrape the bottom of the pan if the onions are sticking. 

While the onions are cooking, mix the eggs, flour, mustard, the remaining 1/4 tsp of salt, the pepper and milk. Set aside. In a separate bowl combine the cheeses and caramelized onion.

Place the pie crust into the pie plate. Add the mixed cheeses and onions to the bottom of the pie plate. Spread over the pie crust. If you are using fresh thyme, place it on top of the cheese onion mixture. Pour the egg mixture over the cheese onion mixture. 

Place in a preheated 400 degree F oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the crust is crusty and golden. Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6. 

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Favorites.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

APPLE PECAN LOAF

I have been reading a wonderful cookbook by Mark Bittman "How to Bake Everything". There are some many delicious recipes that it is hard to choose at times what to bake. In each of the recipes, Mark Bittman offers variations and where possible, how to make it vegan. I decided to make a recipe called 'fresh fruit and nut bread'. A number of interesting options are suggested for both the fruit and nuts. You can use fresh or dried fruit. I decided to use a fresh apple and pecans. It was also convenient that I had apple juice. I decreased the sugar and used 1/2 cup of Splenda. After mixing the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients (before I added the nuts and apple), I found the batter too dry to mix so I added about another 1/4 cup of apple juice. The batter is not supposed to be as liquid as cake since it is a bread style loaf but I thought it needed more liquid. I also added about 1 1/4 cups of chopped apple versus the 1 cup called for in the recipe. The apple I chopped was a generous size. Since I bake using a convection oven, the bread was done in 45 minutes.   

The apple and pecan loaf was scrumptious. It had chunks of apple, the pecans provided a nutty taste and the loaf was not too sweet.  The DH had to sample more than one slice. 

Chopped pecans and apple.

Top: Flour mixture with butter blended into it. Bottom: mixed batter.

Ready to bake in the oven.
Baked and ready for sampling.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups of flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon 
4 tbsp cold butter
3/4 cup of apple juice or milk
1 tbsp grated orange or lemon zest
1 egg
1 medium size apple, chopped (makes about 1 cup)
1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped 

Note: If you use apple juice, reduce sugar to 3/4 of a cup.  

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt and cinnamon. Cut the cold butter into bits, add to the flour mixture and cut into the dry ingredients using a fork, 2 knives or a pastry blender. See aside.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg, add the juice or milk and zest. Continue to beat to mix the wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients. You don't need to overmix it. Add the apple and pecans and fold into the batter. The batter will be drier than a cake batter.

Add the batter to a greased 9 X 5 inch loaf pan and place in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown. Cool on a rack before serving. After 15 minutes, you can carefully turn the loaf upside down to release it from the pan and onto the rack.  

Adapted from "How to Bake Everything" by Mark Bittman

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

COOKING A BRISKET

After all the years I have been cooking, I recently cooked a brisket for the first time.  I have eaten brisket cooked by others but never performed the honour myself.  Cooking a brisket reminds me of cooking a more sophisticated pot roast. 

What is a brisket and where does it come?  From the website "thespruce.com", the brisket is the breast section of the cow beneath the first five ribs, behind the foreshank.  The brisket can be a large cut of meat.  It is an inexpensive boneless cut that requires long, slow cooking to achieve tenderness.  The cut is quite long and usually cut in half.  Each half has a different name.  The flat cut, also known as the first cut, thin cut, or center cut is a leaner piece of meat.  The point cut, or second cut, or deckle, has more flavor due to a bit of extra fat.  Which one do you use?  The first cut is more attractive, it slices up neatly and is a good choice for corned beef.  The second cut is a favorite of Jewish grandmothers, as the fatty cap helps braise the meat.  Pitmasters also gravitate toward the deckle, as the preponderance of fat makes for a juicy smoked cut that shreds nicely.  Brisket is the primary cut for barbecue, corned beef, and Jewish pot roast.  It is also the main ingredient in a number of other classic dishes - Romanian pastrami, Italian bollito misto, English braised beef or pot roast, the classic Vietnamese noodle soup pho is made with brisket, and it is curried with noodles in Hong Kong.

I spent time researching all of the variations on cooking brisket and reviewed many recipes.  I decided to use Lucy Waverman's recipe for brisket.  I made a few small changes.  The brisket I bought from the butcher was nine pounds and I cut it in half as it was long and I didn't have a pan large enough to sear it if I hadn't cut it into two parts.  I also trimmed some of the fat cap on the meat.  The fat was more on one side of the brisket.  It was more fat on it than what I thought was necessary and I thought that shaving some of the fat off the brisket would not alter the tenderness.  The recipe calls for carrots and cayenne pepper among the ingredients and I didn't add these two.  I could have also cooked the wine down more that is added to the frying pan once the meat is finished searing.  I cooked the roast for three and a half hours before adding the dates and then cooked it for another hour.  Total cooking time was four and a half hours.  I set the oven temperature at 275 degrees F for the first three hours and then increased it to 300 degrees as I was worried it was not going to be tender enough.  
I cooked the brisket the day before I was going to serve it.  After the brisket was finished cooking, I let it cool on the counter and then placed the meat into a container and put it in the fridge overnight.  It is much easier to carve the brisket when it is cold.  I put the stock with the vegetables from the roasting pan into a separate container and also put it in the fridge overnight.  I wanted the stock to solidify and to skim the fat off the top the following day.  On the second day, the DH carved the meat with an electric knife.  I heated the meat at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes in the oven in a covered roasting pan with a little of reserved stock poured over it.  I removed the fat from the top of the cooled stock, strained the vegetables and heated it in a pot on the stove.  Some people like to pour a bit of the stock over their serving of meat.  
The brisket turned out really well and everyone enjoyed it.  The meat was tender and moist.  It is a bit of work to cook a brisket but worth every bite. 
Here are some photos to show the process of cooking the brisket.

Second half of brisket being seared.

Both halves seared. 

Sautéing vegetables. 

Vegetables placed on bottom of large roasting pan. 

Seared brisket added to the pan.

Stock being cooked.

Stock added to roasting pan and ready to be covered and placed in the oven.

Carved meat, ready to be covered with tin foil and then heated. 

Brisket with vegetables and horseradish.