Sunday, January 25, 2015

TIDYING YOUR SPACE

I recently bought a book entitled "the life-changing magic of tidying up.  The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing".  It is written by Marie Kondo and has been translated from Japanese.  Along with the introduction the book has five chapters.  The author's premise is that you don't have keep tidying your house every day.  Tidying can be done once and the tasks that you need to continue for the rest of your life are those of choosing what to keep and what to discard and caring for the things you decide to keep.  Furthermore, by tidying once, you will be able to put your house in order and have the time and passion to pursue what brings you joy into your life.  The author says that when you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order too.  You have to first start by discarding what you really don't need and then organizing your space.


You might be wondering why I bought this book and if I am a messy untidy person.  I think I am tidy and try to not collect too many piles of papers or books at home.  But it is all relative based on who I am comparing myself to.  I am also conscious of not trying to saving everything.  What caught my attention when looking at this book at the bookstore was chapter 3 on tidying by category.  I started to read the pages on how to fold clothes and store socks.  I was intrigued.  The author feels that the inside of your drawers should be organized so that the each item can be seen at a glance, just like seeing the spines of your books when they are lined up on your bookcase.  Clothes in your drawer should be stored standing and it is not the folding that creates wrinkles but the amount of pressure applied that causes wrinkling. The goal is to fold each piece of clothing into a smooth, simple rectangle.  Every piece of clothing has its own sweet spot in terms of the number of folds.  I love tee shirts and have written about tee shirts in a previous post  how many tee shirts should you own?   I have several drawers of tee shirts and the tee shirts are separated by whether they are short sleeve or long sleeve and colours.  The tee shirts are all nicely folded but are stacked, and are not stored in the drawers standing up.  You can bet already that I will be rearranging my tee shirt drawers.

Chapter 3 also contains information on storing socks.  Besides tee shirts,  I also love socks.  I store my socks in the drawer by rolling them up and fold the tops back to form a flat ball.  The author write that socks should not be balled-up.  Storing them in the drawer is a time for them to rest.  Your socks are essentially on holiday.  When you wear your socks they endure pressure and friction.  If you store your socks balled-up, the fabric is stretched, the elastic is pulled and they never get the chance to relax.  This make perfect sense to me.  The socks are folded like clothing and are stored with the socks on their edge.  I spent 45 minutes today unwrapping my socks and storing them folded on their edge.  I also separated the socks based on winter and summers weight and whether they were fine socks intended to wear with dress shoes.  I realized doing this that I have a lot of socks, likely too many socks.  And I like every pair of them.  

The book contains other interesting information from arranging clothes in your closet, to arranging books on your book case, to designating a spot for each of your items, to appreciating your belongings, and to learning that you can do without.  Since I have been reading the book in a non sequential manner, I will start to read it from beginning to end.  It is not a big book both in size and page numbers so it should not take me long to read it.

 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

SHRIMP AND PASTA

I do find a difference in taste using freshly made pasta versus the dry packaged varieties.  I was at an Italian restaurant recently and they sell fresh pasta that they make on the premises. You can buy it and take it home to use for your own dishes.  I didn't even have pasta that night at the restaurant.  They have a number of entrees in which pasta is not included.  I bought 8 ounces of uncooked linguine to use for the following evening meal.  Since I had cooked shrimp in the fridge I thought I would create a simple dish using the pasta and the shrimp.  It was well received by the DH and he definitely liked this pasta dish versus the ones I have sometimes created using black bean pasta.  You can make this recipe using dried pasta and it would be just as good.  As I had about two tablespoons of an artichoke dip left in a container in the fridge, I added this to the pasta dish at the end.

Shrimp and spinach in the frying pan.

Fresh pasta cooking away.


I added two tablespoons of this dip to the pasta and shrimp while still in the frying pan.

Finished dish, ready to be served.

INGREDIENTS:

8 ounces uncooked pasta such as linguine, spaghetti, fettuccine
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp oil
several handfuls of fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
3 tbsp fresh dill. chopped
20 medium size cooked shrimped, shelled
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp chunky artichoke dip, optional

DIRECTIONS:

Boil a medium size pot with salted water, with enough water to cook pasta.  Add the pasta, reduce the heat to medium and cooked to al dente.  Drain the pasta and reserve some of the cooking water in case it is needed later in the recipe.

While the pasta is cooking, add the oil to a non-stick frying pan and heat on high. Add the garlic, reduce the heat to medium and sauté for a few minutes.  Add the spinach and cook it until it is wilted.  Add the shrimp, dill and lemon juice to the frying pan. Cook for a few minutes.  If the mixture appears dry, add about 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water.  Mix well.  Add salt and pepper to  taste.

Add the drained pasta to the frying pan and using thongs, mix the pasta with the shrimp and spinach.  Add the chunky artichoke dip.  Combine and remove the pan from the stove.  Serves 2 to 3.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

VEGAN MORNING MUFFINS

I came across this recipe in a recent edition of the Globe and Mail newspaper.  The story wasn't focussed as much on the muffins but the person who makes these muffins - Kathleen Edwards. She is a singer-songwriter who has opened up her own coffee shop.  These muffins are quick to make and you can add items to them based on your preferences - from bananas to nuts to dried fruit to frozen berries to coconut.  The recipe calls for applesauce.  The only applesauce I had was frozen so I substituted cranberry sauce that I had made earlier in the week.  I also added shredded unsweetened coconut to the recipe.  One ingredient made me pause.  The recipe calls for two tablespoons of vanilla extract.  I would think it would have been two teaspoons but I followed the recipe and added the tablespoons.  The muffins tasted fine with that amount of vanilla extract.  Instead of sugar I used 1/3 cup of splenda.  I used regular bran instead of the red bran that the recipe calls for.  The muffins taste healthy.



INGREDIENTS:

Dry:
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cup red bran
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp baking powder
dash of salt

Wet:
2 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup almond milk. Add a tbsp of apple cider vinegar and let curdle for five minutes before adding to the wet ingredients.

DIRECTIONS:

Combine the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Set aside.  Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine with a spatula.  Choose one to three of the following items to add to the mixed batter: 2 to 3 ripe mashed ripe bananas; 1/4 cup dried and diced dates, apricots, cranberries, raisins, cranberries, frozen berries, seeds, chopped nuts or shredded coconut.  Combine your choice into the batter.   Add batter to non-stick muffin tin.  I like to use muffin paper liners to make it easier to lift the muffins out of the individual muffin cups.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 22 to 25 minutes.  Makes 12 to 14 muffins.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

ASPARAGUS SALAD

I was thinking about some recipes over the these holidays to make ahead prior to the supper meal in order to pace myself and to ease the load of trying to have everything ready at once to serve.  This asparagus salad can be made during the afternoon.  I cooked the asparagus and added all of the chopped vegetables but didn't add the dressing until the salad was ready to be served.  I covered the salad with plastic wrap and placed it in the fridge for the few hours before supper.  It is a great salad and is an option to consider if you are looking for a non-lettuce option.



Asparagus added to medium size pot.

Before the salad was mixed, the peppers, tomatoes and avocado are layered over the asparagus.

INGREDIENTS:
2 lbs asparagus, trimmed and chopped into small chunks
1 to 1/2 cups halved cherry or grape tomatoes
1 coloured pepper, seeded and chopped
1 ripe avocado, cut into cubes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste


DIRECTIONS:
Add asparagus to a pot of water and boil for about two minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Into a large serving bowl, add asparagus with remaining ingredients and combine to mix the vegetables with the dressing.  Serves 6.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

MUESLI CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

I buy a number of products made by Bob's Red Mill.  I have never counted the number of products that the company sells but they cover the gamete from flour to cereal to grains and beans.  Bob Moore started his first company milling flour in the 1960s in California.  The current company, located in Oregon, got started in the late 1970's and Bob sold it to his employees when he decided to retire years later.

On one of my grocery trips, I bought a large bag of muesli made by Bob's Red Mill.  I add the muesli to my porridge instead of chia seed or hemp seed to have some variety.  On the back of the package is a recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  I decided to make a double batch as I wanted to bring cookies to work and I can't take all of the cookies and not leave the DH any morsels so a double batch was made.  I used Splenda instead of brown sugar and used a mixture of unbleached flour and multigrain flour.  I also used butter in the recipe.  I made the cookies small in size and they are what I call a two bite cookie.  They are delicious.  




INGREDIENTS:
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar or 1/2 cup Splenda
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup Bob's Red Mill Muesli
1 cup chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a medium size bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt together and set aside.   In a separate bowl blend the butter, sugar and vanilla.  Beat in the egg.  Add the flour mixture and mix.  Add the muesli and chocolate chips.  Combine.  Drop by a teaspoon onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or lightly oiled.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  Makes about 24 cookies.

recipe adapted from the Bob's Red Mill Muesli

Saturday, December 6, 2014

CABBAGE VEGETABLE SOUP

The DH asked one recent weekend if I could make cabbage soup.  He had suggested cabbage soup as one of his coffee cronies talked about making this soup.  When making vegetable soup, I will usually add cabbage but thought I could focus the soup more on cabbage than other vegetables.  I also like to add sauerkraut to give a little zest to the soup when making a borscht style soup.   I use sauerkraut made with just cabbage and salt.  I used my electric pressure cooker to make the soup and cooked it for 16 minutes on medium pressure.



INGREDIENTS:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped small
2 stalks celery, chopped small
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped small
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium size potato, peeled and chopped small
1/2 to 3/4 medium size green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sauerkraut
6 to 7 cups of stock
3 tbsp fresh dill. chopped
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large soup pot, heat the oil on medium high heat.  Add the onions, celery, carrots and garlic, reduce the heat to medium and sauté for 5 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients, heat the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 60 to 70 minutes.   Serves 9.









Saturday, November 29, 2014

SALMON CAKES

About a week ago I was visiting with a girlfriend and her mom and sister.  They were talking about making fresh fish cakes using salmon for supper.  I asked what ingredients they were using and it seemed simple and not an onerous amount of work to make these fish cakes.  You can use fresh or canned salmon to make fish cakes.  I have made croquettes using canned salmon but the ingredients were a bit different for the fish cakes.  The seed was planted for me to make these cakes.

While out doing my errands today and what my girlfriend calls visiting my trapline as I frequent a number of shops on my regular errand run on the weekends with the DH, I had the idea of making salmon cakes in the back of my mind.  You can use steelhead trout or other fish besides salmon but I was focussed on buying salmon.  The ingredients call for one pound of salmon but I bought two pounds as I was going to make a double batch and freeze a number of cakes for future use.  The cakes  put aside for future meals were not cooked and were individually wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in a freezer bag.  The salmon cakes turned out great and I will make this recipe again.  This recipe also works well for leftover baked salmon or other fish when you are thinking about what to cook with leftover baked fish.

Preparing salmon for baking.

Just before putting the potatoes on the stove to cook.

Cooked salmon has been chopped.

Potatoes have been mashed.

All the ingredients have been mixed together.

Using a non-stick pan to fry the cakes.

Ready to serve.
INGREDIENTS:

1 pound fresh salmon or a an equivalent amount of canned salmon
2 medium size potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tbsp butter
less than 1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 tbsp flour
2 tsp fresh dill. chopped or 1/2 tsp dry dill
juice from 1 fresh lemon or lime
1 cup of frozen or fresh peas
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp oil for frying

DIRECTIONS:

Place the salmon on a cookie sheet lined with tin foil and cook at 375 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes.    I like to spray the tin foil with cooking spray before I put the salmon on the foil.  You can season the salmon with salt and pepper if desired.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

While the salmon is cooking, cook the cubed potatoes on medium heat on the stove until they are soft.  Drain the potatoes, add the butter and milk to the pot and mash the potatoes.  Let the potatoes cool.

Into a medium size mixing bowl add the salmon and chop it until it is flaked.  Add the potatoes, egg, flour, dill, lemon or lime juice and salt and pepper.  Mix well.  If using frozen peas, microwave them in a bit of water in a covered dish for two minutes.  Drain and add the peas and gently combine so that the peas are distributed throughout the mixture.

Add the oil to a non-stick frying pan and heat on medium high until the oil is hot.  Gently shape the salmon mixture into about 7 cakes and place each one in the pan.  I used my hands to shape the cakes.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook on both sides until they are crispy brown.  Two or three cakes per person (depends on appetite) makes a nice meal along with a salad.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

LIMA BEAN PUREE

I made some baby lima beans one recent weekend from dried beans and after looking at them in the storage container the following morning I thought they needed some dressing up.  I decided to puree them and add a few condiments to enhance the taste of just undressed lima beans.  Pureeing them provides more options such as spreading on toast or crackers, using as a dip for vegetables, adding to cooked rice or quinoa or incorporating it into a homemade salad dressing.   Other beans can also be used to make a puree.

I didn't want to add ingredients similar to hummus, e.g. tahini, as there was already a container of hummus in the fridge.  One product that I like to use and I call it convenience in a tube are herbs made into a paste and sold in tubes.  I have both tubes of ginger and lemon grass paste in the fridge.  I used the lemon grass paste in making this puree.  Since I have several flavoured olive oils in the cupboard, I used a lime olive oil to add to the ingredients.  The end result is that the puree has a subtle taste and I can use it in a variety of ways.

After being pureed in the food processor


Convenience in a tube.

INGREDIENTS AND DIRECTIONS:

2 cups cooked lima beans
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon grass paste
1 tsp fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste

Place in a food processor and blend until smooth.  If too thick, add a bit more lemon juice while blending.

Monday, November 10, 2014

FRENCH APPLE CAKE

I have a 'go to' recipe for apple cake by Bonnie Stern and I have posted that recipe along with my variations.  I receive an email newsletter from America's Test Kitchen.  The frequency is once or twice a week.  They produce the magazine Cooks Illustrated which I have bought on occasion.  It is a great magazine and provides a lot of information on cooking.  One of their newsletters had a recipe for french apple cake.  The recipe required a few more steps than the Bonnie Stern recipe and it also included explanations on why certain steps or procedures were done.

This cake has a custard like cake bottom which includes the chopped apples.  A second layer is added which is more of a standard cake recipe. The custard like cake is created by adding two egg yolks.   With friends coming over for dinner I decided to try this recipe and as I had some time in the morning, I knew that I would have the prep time.  I thought I would follow the recipe and don't do too much tweaking.  The only substitution I made was using cointreau instead of white rum.  The recipe calls for two tablespoons.  I have provided the link to the recipe site after these photos as they do an excellent job providing the detailed steps.  My cake didn't turn out like their recipe photo.  Their recipe looks more like cake.  The DH and I did some sampling and it is a great cake.  The cake looks like the Bonnie Stern recipe but it tastes a bit different because of the custard bottom.  In the last two photos you will notice a white glaze on top of the baked cake which is sugar.  Before baking you can sprinkle some sugar on top of the batter.  I likely sprinkled a little too much.  The recipe also suggests placing the pan with the batter on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil before placing it in the oven.  I did hesitate and wonder if I should do that.  I am glad I followed the directions as there was some batter leakage from the bottom of the pan onto the aluminum foil and clean up was so much easier this way.
Chopped apples going into the microwave.

The two bowls containing the wet and dry ingredients.

Apples folded into the custard like cake batter.

The top cake batter has been added to the pan.

Cooling off on a rack with the tin foil still under the pan.  I used a spring form pan.

The DH and I sampled the cake to ensure it was good enough for company.
I would make this cake again.  Making it in a spring form pan is the most easiest as you can lift the sides of the pan off.  I plan to serve this cake with caramel ice cream.  I thought that the carmel ice cream would compliment the apples.  Here is the link to the recipe Cooks Illustrated.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

POTATO CASSEROLE

Potato casserole is a wonderful dish to make during the fall and winter months.  The foundation of the dish is minced, finely chopped or shredded onions and potatoes.  Other vegetables can be added including celery and carrots.  If my grandmother had made this dish years ago, she would have hand grated the onions and potatoes.  I have evolved to using electrical tools and I have both shredded the potatoes and onions using a food processor with a shredding blade or with a bottom blade that finely chopped the potatoes and onions.

In making the recipe this time, I added a large carrot to the ingredients to give some colour and more texture.  You can also freeze it once the cooked casserole has been baked and cool down to room temperature.  I like to cut the casserole into squares before freezing to make it easier for serving and also if you only want so many portions for a meal.


INGREDIENTS:

5 large potatoes, peeled
1 large onion, peeled
1 large carrot, peeled
3 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Using a hand shredder or food processor, shred or finely chop the onion, potatoes and carrot.  The shredded or finely chopped vegetables can be put into a large mixing bowl.  If I am using a food processor, I add the remaining ingredients to the food processor in order to beat the eggs with the oil, baking powder, flour, oil and salt and pepper.  Beat the mixture to ensure that it is well mixed.  Add the liquid to the shredded vegetables and mix everything together using a mixing spoon.

Oil a 9 X 13 baking pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes at 375 degrees F.  You can also use two smaller baking pans to cook the casserole.  Serves 8 to 10 depending on appetites.