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.





Saturday, April 8, 2017

SAUSAGE BARLEY VEGETABLE SOUP

About three years ago I posted a recipe for a soup with vegetables, sausage and quinoa (vegetable sausage quinoa soup).  I recently made it again but used some different ingredients.  When I buy a pack of italian sausage at Costco, there is more than enough for a few meals.  I tend to use a few sausages for soup.  I like the mild italian sausage which I find spicy enough and don't dare try the hot italian sausage.  I added about a heaping one third of a cup pearl barley and I could have easily added instead half a cup.  If you are following a paleo lifestyle, you would not be adding the barley and could add potato or other starchy vegetables.  I made this soup using an electric pressure cooker but it can also be made in a large soup pot on top of the stove.  The soup was delicious and it will make great lunch or supper options.


INGREDIENTS:her 

1 large onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 stalks of celery, chopped
3 carrots, thinly chopped
1 can of sliced mushrooms, drained or 1 cup fresh sliced mushrooms
2 cups of frozen chopped green beans
1/2 package of frozen spinach 
1/3 cup heaping pearl barley
6 tomatoes, pureed or diced
2 italian sausages, chopped into small pieces
8 cups broth - vegetable, chicken or beef
1 tsp of italian seasoning
salt and pepper, optional

DIRECTIONS:

Add all of the ingredients to either a large pot on the stove or an electric pressure cooker.  If using the stop top method, heat to a boil and let simmer, covered, for 90 minutes.  If using the electric pressure cooker, cook on medium pressure for 16 minutes.  Makes 6 to 8 servings. 


Monday, March 13, 2017

BANANA COCONUT LOAF

Recently I saw this recipe from Karen Barnaby in my local newspaper and it looked so delicious that I had to make it.  It is a great combination of bananas and coconut.  I made a few changes to the recipe.  I used Splenda instead of sugar and almond milk instead of full fat coconut milk.  I baked the loaf in a silicon loaf pan, didn't line it with parchment paper and it took 60 minutes to bake in a convection oven.  The loaf turned out to be delicious and was enjoyed by the myself and the DH.


A wedge of the loaf ready for sampling.


You can see the sliced banana and coconut sprinkled on top. 

INGREDIENTS:


1½ cups  all-purpose flour
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, divided 
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
½ cup coconut oil, melted
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed, ripe bananas, (3-4)
½ cup full-fat coconut milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 ripe banana sliced into 1/4 inch slices

DIRECTIONS:

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F . Grease a 9 x 5-inch (23 x 13 cm), loaf pan. Line the bottom and sides with parchment paper. 
2. Whisk together flour, ¾ cup coconut, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
3. Beat the coconut oil and sugars until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Beat in bananas, coconut milk and vanilla
4. Add flour mixture to banana mixture and mix until just combined. Scrape into the prepared pan and top with the remaining 1/4 cup coconut and banana slices. 
5. Bake for 70-90 minutes. Test readiness by inserting a toothpick into the centre and it comes out with moist crumbs.  Let it cool before slicing.

Monday, February 20, 2017

NOODLE-LESS LASAGNA

I like to do some cooking on weekends in preparation for the week ahead when there is less time to cook supper.  I had some zucchini in the fridge and other vegetables along with some frozen ground beef.  I decided to make a lasagna without the noodles.  I didn't have any ricotta or cottage cheese nor mozzarella but I had frozen shredded herb cheddar along with parmesan in the fridge.  I knew that skipping the ricotta cheese would not be a hardship.  I used both fresh and frozen tomatoes to make the tomato sauce.  I added a bit of corn starch to thicken it.  Instead of fresh tomatoes you could use a can of tomato sauce.

In making this lasagna I had some ingredients leftover after assembling it in the large pan.  I used what was left and made a mini one layer lasagna in a small pan and froze it without baking for a future supper.  For a future supper, I will just need to bake it frozen and will pat myself on the back for planning ahead.

Sliced zucchini and mushrooms

Beef and vegetables sautéing. Then the tomato mixture was added to the pan.


Zucchini layer, followed by spinach and mushroom.

Second layer of meat, then zucchini followed by two kinds of cheese. 

Just out of the oven.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound lean ground beef
1-2 tbsp oil, e.g. olive, avocado
1 onion diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 coloured pepper, chopped
I small can tomato paste
5 tomatoes
1 tbsp corn starch
1 small package of frozen spinach, thaw and drained in a colander
3 zucchini, cut into thin slices
5-6 mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp of dried oregano and 1/2 tsp dried basil or 1/2 tsp mixture of Italian herbs
6-8 ozs shredded cheese
1/3 - 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste


Sprinkle the sliced zucchini with some salt and place in a colander to drain.  Let it sit while you assemble the ingredients and do the initial cooking.  In a large frying pan, heat the oil to high, add the ground beef and reduce the heat to medium.  Sauté the meat breaking it up into small pieces and cooking it until the pink is gone.  Sprinkle with pepper.  Add the onion, celery, coloured pepper and oregano/bail or blended herbs.  Cook until the vegetables are softened.  Add salt if so desired.

Into a blender, add the tomatoes and puree. Add the can of tomato paste and blend well. Add the corn starch and blend for another 15 to 20 seconds.  Add the tomato mixture to the frying pan with the beef.  Mix well and let simmer for a few minutes.  Turn the heat off on the frying pan.

Oil a 9 X 13 casserole dish.  Layer about half the beef tomato mixture into the bottom of the pan.  Add a layer of zucchini slices using half of the zucchini slices.  Layer all of the spinach and sliced mushrooms over top of zucchini.  Sprinkle with half of the shredded cheese.  Layer the remaining beef tomato mixture followed by the remaining zucchini.  Top with the rest of the shredded cheese and finish with the parmesan cheese.  Bake covered with foil at 325 degrees F for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil, increase the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes.  It is good to let the lasagna sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.  Serves 6.

Friday, February 3, 2017

TURKEY WILD RICE SOUP

With the turkey leftover from the number of meals over the holiday season, one of the things I made was turkey wild rice soup.  I had already froze the carcass and I had about two cups of leftover chopped turkey to use.  My options were to make soup or freeze the meat.  I had already made a turkey shepherd pie and froze it and had also froze part of a turkey breast after the first meal.  Freezing more turkey was not a preferred option.  I also had three sour cabbage rolls to use.  Using them would add some tang to the soup.   

I used a pressure cooker to make the soup.  My electric pressure cooker has a sauté option which I used to sauté the vegetables before cooking the soup.  I cooked it in the pressure cooker for 14 minutes on medium pressure.  The soup is delicious and the tanginess made it stand out as a soup.



Vegetables sautéing in the pressure cooker.


The wild rice and parsley added to the sauteed vegetables. 

Ready for sampling.

INGREDIENTS:

2 tbsp olive oil or avocado oil

1 clove garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 small coloured pepper, chopped
2 tbsp corn starch
1 cup water
4 cups water
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup milk - regular or plant based milk


DIRECTIONS:


Add the oil to a large pot and heat to a high temperature.  Add the garlic and onions and reduce the heat to medium.  Sauté for about 3 minutes and stir so that the onions and garlic don't stick. Add the celery, carrots, pepper and continue to sauté for about 5 minutes.  Add the wild rice and combine.


In a separate jar with a lid, add the corn starch and 1 cup of water and shake the jar to mix the starch with the water.  Add this to the soup pot.  Mix everything together.  Add the turkey, 4 cups of water, parsley, lemon juice and salt and pepper.  Combine everything and raise the heat back to high until it boils.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and let it cooked covered with a lid for about an hour.  If the soup is too thick, add some water.  When done, add the cup of milk.  Serves 6 to 8 depending on portion size.


Adapted from all recipes.com

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A SPRING ROLL WITHOUT THE SPRING

In thinking about what to make for supper, I decided to take the ingredients that you would use to make a Vietnamese spring roll or an egg roll but not use rice paper wrapper nor any deep frying.  I would sauté the meat and vegetables and serve it with rice or wrapped in large lettuce leaves to resemble a spring roll.  You can serve it with sweet chili sauce which adds some flavour.

It is a versatile recipe and you can substitute ground turkey, chicken or pork instead of the lean ground beef that I used.  You can also include other vegetables than those that I included.  I didn't have any mushrooms or water chestnuts to add to the sautéed vegetables.  To finely chop the carrots and cabbage I used a small food processor.  You could also use a grater to create finely chopped vegetables.  I didn't finely chop the celery and if I was using rice paper wrappers, I would have chopped the celery a lot more.  Both the DH and I enjoyed the dish and I would make it again.  

Ground beef browning in the frying pan.

Chopped celery and green onion.

Carrots and cabbage added to the pan.

Just about finished cooking.

Served with a small portion of rice.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound lean ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 green onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
6 baby carrots, finely chopped
1/4 head of cabbage, finely chopped
salt and pepper
dash of sesame oil
dash of soy sauce or alternative
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:
Heat a large non-stick frying on the stove to high and add the lean ground meat.  Reduce heat to medium and sauté the meat until the pink is gone from the meat.  If you are using extra lean ground meat, you may need to add some avocado or other frying oil to the pan to sauté the meat.  Add the garlic and ginger and mix well. 

Reduce the heat to medium low and add the celery and green onion and sauté for a minute.  Add the carrots and cabbage and continue to sauté for five minutes.  If the mixture is sticking to the pan, reduce the heat to low.  Add the sesame oil, soup sauce and salt and pepper.  Combine well.  Serves 4. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

TURKEY SHEPHERD PIE

I cooked a large turkey this week and of course there are leftovers.  Besides the turkey, I had leftovers of cabbage rolls, gravy, mashed potatoes and stuffing.  After having turkey three days in a row, I had had enough turkey and we needed to go to Plan B.  Plan B is making things using turkey.  I followed up with three things. I froze part of one turkey breast and decided to make soup and shepherd's pie.  I had already frozen the carcass and bones after the meat was initially carved for future soups.

Using some of the fresh cooked turkey meat, I will make turkey rice vegetable soup.  I plan to add the three leftover cabbage rolls and these will add great flavour to the soup.  But that will be done  tomorrow.  Tonight, after supper was done, I made the shepherd's pie.  I decided to add some of the stuffing to the mashed potatoes as the top layer.  I had enough leftover mashed potatoes but thought adding the stuffing would add flavour and since the stuffing was really tasty I wanted to use some of it.  This recipe is adaptable to adding different vegetables depending on what you like.  I used a medium size pan, about 9 X 13 or so inches.  If you have less leftover turkey and mashed potatoes, you can use a smaller pan.  You can also use sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes.  If you don't have leftover mashed potatoes, you can cook 2 to 3 potatoes and mash them to add as the topping.  I froze the assembled pie and will bake it for a future meal in a month or two.

Assembled and ready to freeze.

INGREDIENTS:

2 tbsp oil 
1 clove garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
peas and corn - optional
2 to 3 cups chopped turkey 
1/3 cup gravy 
salt and pepper to taste

2 cups mashed potatoes
1 cup leftover stuffing
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Using a medium to large frying pan, add the oil and heat the pan using a high temperature.  Add the onion and garlic and reduce heat to medium.  Sauté for 5 minutes, stir often and don't let the onions get brown.  Add some water if the onions and garlic are sticking to the frying pan.  Add the remaining vegetables and continue sautéing and stirring for about five minutes.  Add some water if the mixture is sticking.  Add the turkey and gravy to the pan and combine well.  Turn the heat off. 

In a medium size bowl, combine the stuffing and mashed potatoes.  Add 1/4 cup of the grated cheese to the potato mixture and combine.

Into a baking pan, add the cooked vegetables, turkey and gravy.  Layer the mashed potatoes mixture on top.  Cover the top with the remaining 1/4 cup shredded cheese. Wrap it up for freezing or bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes.  If it is frozen and then placed in the oven, the baking time will be longer.   Serves 4 to 5 people. 




Saturday, December 3, 2016

VEGETARIAN SHEPHERD'S PIE

This recipe is a remake of the traditional shepherd's pie but uses kidney beans instead of ground beef. It uses cheese but could be made using vegan cheese or nutritional yeast. I liked using kidney beans as the bean base as they are a larger hearty bean and I think better suited to this dish than using black beans or chick peas. The shepherd's pie turned out well and it was enjoyable.  I also like mashed potatoes which goes well with everything. Well almost everything.  I haven't tried mashed potatoes and chocolate but I have tried chocolate potato chips which I liked.

Carrots and celery added to the bottom of the casserole dish. 

The kidney bean mixture is layered over the carrots and celery.

Mashed potatoes and shredded cheese provide the top layer. 

INGREDIENTS:
1 onion, chopped            
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or almonds            
19 oz can kidney beans, drain and rinse
1 small can tomato paste            
1 tsp Worcestershire
1 tsp soy sauce            
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp herbes de provence or add marjoram and dried basil or use fresh thyme and basil
1 cup water
2 cups diced celery            
2 cups diced carrots
5 medium potatoes            
½ cup milk
½ cup shredded cheese            
Parmesan cheese to cover top

DIRECTIONS:

1. Peel, cut small & cook potatoes; drain & mash with the ½ cup milk and ¼ cup of the cheese.

2. Sauté in olive oil, the onion, garlic and walnuts for 5 minutes; add kidney beans, tomato paste, water, Worcestershire, soy sauce and herbs.  Bring to boil then simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Microwave carrots and celery in small amount water until almost cooked, drain & put in bottom of a sprayed casserole dish.  I used a large Corel casserole dish.

4. Top with the hot bean mixture.

5. Spread hot mashed potatoes over top; sprinkle with shredded cheese then Parmesan.

6. Bake @ 350°F until bubbly (about 30 minutes)  Serves 6.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

MAUREEN'S BIG BATCH CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

In the 1980's a friend gave me this recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  Both of us were in school and baking big batches of cookies and other recipes made it more convenient between studying, going to classes and looking after yourself.  I haven't made this recipe in years and it still tastes as good when I made them today.  

I followed the original recipe except that I used Splenda in place of the white sugar.  I did not add the peanut butter.  I also decided to experiment and use mini tart baking shells instead of making all of them in the traditional cookie shape.  I wanted to make small cookies that would be easy to freeze and also easy to transport to share at work and with friends.  I like the smaller size as they are about 3 bites.  Using the mini tarts baking shells, I made 8 dozen and I also made about 17 cookies in the traditional way.  I used a teaspoon of batter, not heaping, in the mini tart shells.  The cookies were enjoyed by the DH.

I used my large bowl KitchenAid  to mix the batter.

Adding the chocolate chips as the last step.

I flattened the batter in the mini tart baking shells. Ready for the oven.

Cooling down before I remove them to place on wire racks.

The cookies taste as good as they look.
INGREDIENTS:

2 cups crisco or other shortening
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
4 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
12 ounces chocolate chips

1/2 cup peanut butter (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl or mixmaster, cream together the shortening, brown and white sugar and vanilla.  Add the eggs.  Mix well.  Add the flour, baking soda and salt to the mixture and combine.  Add the chocolate chips and peanut.  

Using a generous teaspoon, place spoonfuls of the batter on a large cookie sheet, flatten with a fork and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  Provide some space between each cookie as they do spread.  Makes between 9 to 10 dozen cookies. 



Saturday, November 5, 2016

EGGPLANT VEGETABLE CASSEROLE

Having bought two eggplants, the purple globe variety, I was thinking about various recipes that incorporate eggplant.  I wanted to make a main entree   versus an appetizer or a spread like baba ghanoush. 


After reviewing a number of cookbooks and recipes collected over time, I thought about making stuffed eggplant. I have made this dish over the years from one of my first vegetarian cookbooks that I bought, the Vegetarian Epicure. In making stuffed eggplant, you are limited to how many vegetables you can sauté because the vegetable eggplant mixture has to be put back into the shell of the eggplant that was cut in half lengthwise. The stuffed eggplant is then baked with a coating of bread crumbs or a mixture of wheat germ, shredded cheese and milk to make a finishing paste. My intention was to make this as the entree for supper.  

I did come across one recipe from Forks Over Knives cookbook for stuffed eggplant that also included brown basmati rice. I proceeded to make rice in the rice cooker.


While cutting and chopping and looking at the vegetables that I wanted to include I thought about not trying to stuff everything back into the shell of the eggplant and instead make a casserole. 


I used a large frying pan for all of the vegetables I added: onion, garlic, celery, green beans, eggplant, spinach, tomato and mushrooms. This amount would have been far too much to add to four eggplant shells. I combined the vegetables with the cooked rice and placed it into a large baking dish. 


I added some feta cheese and nutritional yeast on the top of the casserole and baked it for 30 minutes. When serving it, I added a bit of shredded gouda cheese to the individual dishes to make it cheesier. Both myself and the DH liked the casserole.  

Just out of the oven.
INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of uncooked brown basmati rice
1 tbsp oil
2 medium size eggplants, peeled and cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 stalks of celery, chopped
4 mushrooms, chopped
handful of fresh green beans, chopped
2 handfuls of fresh spinach, coarsely chopped 
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

cheese for topping, e.g. feta or nutritional yeast

DIRECTIONS:

Cook the rice per the directions on the package.  I used a rice cooker to cook the rice.

Heat the oil on medium high heat in a large frying pan. Add the onions and garlic, reduce the heat to medium and sauté for five minutes. Make sure to not over brown the onions and garlic. You can reduce the heat to medium low. Add the eggplant, celery, mushrooms and green beans and place a cover on the frying pan. Sauté for five minutes and stir occasionally. If the vegetables are sticking, add some water to the pan. Add the spinach and tomatoes and continue to cook for a few more minutes with the lid still on. Add the cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat off and add the cooked rice to the pan.  Combine well.  Place into an oiled large baking dish, sprinkle cheese on top and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.  Serves 4 to 6. If you are serving it as an entree it will be closer to 4 portions.