Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Taking a Beet Outta Life and Other Stuff

My laptop has bit the dust yet again and my iPhone has gone on to better pastures as well so I'm now trying to make do with what I have which isn't always easy but what can I say...such is life. If my biggest problem is a computer that's on the fritz I'd say my lot in life is pretty good plus I went and got myself a Galaxy S4 which has a really cool camera, so I'm not gonna rant on about the wonders technology hasn't brought me...lol.

Anyways...a quick recap of the last little bit...

Worked at Gopher Dunes on the
Weekend and Played With My New Camera
Connor's back in school (yaaaay), we're starting to work on potty training (yaaay & boooo), I'm getting to spend a lot of time in the kitchen (yaaay), it's Norfolk County Fair week, and it just so happens that my Alma mater...DDSS...kicked a** again this year (double yaaaay) and I'm sick right now (boooo).  Seems to me that I've got a whole lotta yaaaays in there so life is good:)

She Just Loves Being Like Mom

My gramma makes this concoction with horseradish and beets when we have roast beef and I like it so I decided last week to try to make beets and see if I would like them in a bigger dose.  I'll be honest, I've decided that I like beets in smaller quantities, but as far as eating an entire beet goes...what I came up with was pretty good.  If you're a fan of beets, I'm pretty sure this is something you'd enjoy, if you've never tried beets...give it a whirl, if you don't like beets, well, I guess you're done reading...lol.

Dijon Roasted Beets

1 lb Beets, scrubbed and cut into 1" slices
About 1 Tbsp EVOO
1.5 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, melted
3 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
Salt & Pepper

So, I started off by grabbing some LOCAL beets at Wholesome Pickins (I've talked about them before and you can find more info by clicking the link), preheating the oven to 375F, giving them a quick scrub and slicing them up.

Once they were all sliced up, I placed them on some tinfoil, drizzled them with some EVOO and seasoned them up with some salt & pepper.

From there I wrapped them up into a pouch and placed the pouch on my grill pan to go in the oven.  If you're wondering why the the grill pan, there is a method to my madness which you'll see soon.


Once the oven was all ready to go I popped them into the oven for about 30 mins, until they were nice and tender. While I was waiting I took the melted butter and dijon and stirred it all up together.  When the 30 mins was up I took out just the foil package of beets and left my grill pan in the oven to stay hot.

The Dijon Mixture

Don't they look Good:)
From here, I opened up my little foil package and placed the beets directly on my grill pan in the oven and let them get some grill type marks for 2 minutes, then I flipped them and gave them another 2 minutes.  

Getting Some Grill Marks from the Oven

Next up I took my Dijon Butter mixture, brushed it on and put them back in the oven for about another 2 minutes per side.  I did a flip-brush-flip-brush type thing.

Once it was all said and done I pulled them out, tossed them in a bowl and brushed them up with more of the Dijon Mixture.

And there you have it...Dijon Roasted Beets...not too bad for my first attempt:)

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Fire it Up...It's Grill Season

There are so many reasons I love when the warm weather finally makes it's way back to us.  I always turn into a bit of a hermit in the winter, I'm just not a big fan of the cold and see no reason to venture out if I don't have too. Since Mother Nature finally decided to take her meds and we've seen some nice sunny days I've been all over taking the cover off the grill and firing her up.  There's nothing like nice char marks on a medium rare steak or juicy piece of chicken to make me happy and if you think there's something wrong with that, well, that's your problem:)  

Growing up we ate a lot, and I mean a lot, of meals where the main course came from the grill.  My dad was a grilling machine, like, 20 below, middle of a blizzard, outside in a parka grilling machine.  His love of the grill was definitely passed down, however the finesse & ability to cook it just right has taken a few years to hone.  

I can honestly say that I think I'm well on my way to reaching my dad's level of talent with a pair of tongs and a basting brush while I'm cooking with gas. I'm not saying I'm a level 10 Grill Master or anything but I can hold my own nowadays and if you'd have had the pleasure of seeing, but the pain of eating my early attempts you would agree that I've come a long way baby:)

So, the million dollar question right now is what's on the grill for this edition of Wanted....More Friends to Feed???  How about some Chili Lime Chicken. It's no secret that I've been hooked on my Chili Lime marinade...I don't know why, maybe it's because it adds such a zippy flavor.  I've tried it with tilapia, steak and now grilled chicken and have been happy with the results every time and my chicken on the grill wasn't any different:)

Chili Lime Chicken

1/4 c. Lime Juice
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Tsp Chipotle Chili Powder
1/2 Tsp Paprika
1/2 Tsp Dried Cilantro
1/2 Tsp Coriander Seed
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Tsp Honey
1/4 Tsp Celery Salt
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
I've been using the method for grilling chicken that I found in July 2012 issue of Cook's Illustrated Magazine...I love it!! For someone like me the step by step directions are awesome as well as the explanations etc.  

I start by mixing all the ingredients together, except the chicken, and then tossing it all in a large ziplock bag with the chicken for at least 4 hrs, preferably 8 hrs to overnight. 

Once I'm ready to start cooking I light my grill and let it heat up on high until it's really hot...at least 15 minutes.  After it's good and hot, I give it a brushing to clean it up a bit and oil it using a paper towel in a set of tongs dipped in oil.  When I'm done, I turn off the 2 back burners and just leave the front one on high.

The chicken goes on the cooler side of the grill with the big side facing the heat and the smooth side facing down...I cook it like that with the grill closed for about 8 mins.  After the 8 minutes I flip it and rotate it and give it another 8 minutes or so...I want the temperature to be 140F.  

At the 140F I put it on the hot side of the grill for a couple minutes each side to, this helps get those nice dark char marks.  It's done when it hits 160F and from the grill it goes to the plate and I tent it with some foil for about 5 minutes. 

Cooking on the grill this way has given me the juiciest most tender chicken everytime!!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Back Online & Loving It:)

Well, well, well...looks who back in town...well online anyway:)  That's right, it's meeeeee!!!  My trusty, or not so trusty, depending on how you look at it, computer is finally back in working order...her hard drive has gone to Techno Heaven and Aaron's friend Dave got me back up and running...at this point he is one of my true hero's in life...lol...how dependent I've become on my electronic devices.  

Obviously we haven't starved to death and I've still been putting time in the kitchen.  There isn't too much in the way of "new" in my 2nd home but I'm gearing up for some new recipes and some old favorites (especially on the grill) since it's officially...SUMMERTIME!!  Summertime also means some gardening and I'm starting to really jump on that bandwagon...one of the biggest reasons is that I love using fresh herbs when I cook so every year it seems that my herb garden is getting bigger and bigger.

My Herb Garden:)

Well...tonight was a Girl's Night, we did have a couple of "Dad" crashers though...lol, I think they just wanted to be fed.  There's nothing like getting together with your friends and family for a BBQ and since it usually includes a bottle or two of wine I'm always game for guests.  We had quite the feast tonight and I tried out 2 newbies...well 1 newbie and a variation so that makes it a semi newbie. 

Our Newest Members of the Girls Club

I've wanted to try doing a Chickpea Salad for awhile now but Aaron isn't a fan of that kind of stuff so I had to wait to have my girls over to give it a whirl.  It went over well, my taste testers liked it but we did come up with some additions & to me chickpeas are kind of bland so I want to find a way to perk them up a bit...I'm thinking instead of canned I might use dried and try roasting them first with my some of my Epicure spices...maybe the Greek, that's still up in the air though:)  

My First Attempt at a Chickpea Salad with Fresh Herbs from my Garden:)

My variation was for my Grilled Stuffed Chicken Breasts...I did a marinade first and then instead of just plain goat cheese, which Aaron doesn't like, I did a split of goat cheese with ricotta and used some different herbs from my garden...that was a crowd pleaser for sure, for my non goat cheese loving girls it wasn't too much and for my goat cheese lovers it still had that nice and creamy goat cheese flavour.  Unfortunately...we shoveled them in our mouths before I could take a pic...oh well...that's a good thing right:)

I think one of the next things on my list is trying to do something with Cous Cous.  Every time I have Cous Cous I say I want to try making something with it so I think it's getting to be time to bite the bullet and make something.  Spring brought an awesome Cous Cous Salad so I'm gonna have to bug her for her recipe...lol.  

Spring's Cous Cous Salad

Anyways...I'm off to do my thing now so I guess I'll have to leave you with some great advice I heard from my Mom when she was over for her 24th Anniversary of her 29th birthday...as I was grilling up some dinner she told me "If you're looking...you aren't cooking"...how very true that is:)

Friday, 26 April 2013

Leftovers....What to Do???

How many people truly like leftovers??  

I have a confession to make...this girl doesn't...there's a few things that I don't mind but for the most part I just can't stand them.  I'm not alone in this, my grandpa, who was born in the 1930's, who can't stand waste, who thinks a slice of bread with gravy=dessert and who will grab anything off the side of the road that "seems" useful shares this trait with me.  There's just something about leftovers that DOESN'T turn my crank.  

So, what do I do with leftovers?? 

Well, when Aaron was working in Guelph and had access to a microwave for lunch, he had no problem taking leftovers for lunch, but those days are over and done with now.  Looks like I'm in between a rock and hard place when it comes to leftovers now:(  I guess it's time to get creative and figure out how to make use of what's left or reduce our portion sizes so much that we don't have any.  Reducing portion sizes isn't happening so it looks like figuring something out is the only way to go.  

So, Monday was a beautiful day and I fired up the grill for the first time this year and was so excited.  We had steaks and asparagus on the grill with some fried onions and the weirdo that I am, some hollandaise for my steak too.  Guess what, I was left with the dreaded leftovers...no asparagus, that was gone in no time, but there was plenty of steak left.  That's a big problem because leftover steak is on my "not a chance in hell am I reheating that and eating it" list.  What's a girl to do:(  Well this girl decided that fajitas would be a good idea to make use of the hunks of meat sitting in my fridge.  I bet you can guess what we had for dinner on Wednesday night...that's right, steak fajitas...bet you didn't see that coming...lol.  

Fajitas are always a quick and easy meal but I usually do chicken.  Since I was already changing it up I figured why not marinade the leftover meat after I sliced it up to give it some extra pizzazz so that's exactly what I did...hey, my kitchen, my rules right:)  Anyways, if you're a fan of fajitas this might just be something you want to check out cause I think I'm on to something here.  

Leftover Steak Fajitas

For the Marinade

1/2 c. Lime Juice
1/4 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tsp Ground Coriander
1/2 Tsp Chili Powder
1/2 Tsp Cumin

For the Fajitas

1-2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 lb Leftover Steak, cut into slices
2 Bell Peppers, cut into slices
1 Red Onion, cut into slices
1 Tbsp Epicure Fajita Seasoning
8 Flour Tortillas
Sour Cream, Salsa & Shredded Cheese

This recipe is so easy it's not even funny, I started it off by mixing all the ingredients for the marinade together and pouring it in a Ziplock bag with the steak slices and letting it marinade for about an hour, to be honest, I would probably give it more time the next time to boost the flavour.

Check out that garlic...I love garlic:)

Ready to hit the fridge.

Once the steak was done marinading I heated the olive oil over medium heat and added the steak.  I just grabbed it by the handful and tossed it in so it wouldn't be too liquidy with the marinade but if you want to add some of the marinade in with it feel free, you might have to add a little bit of cornstarch/flour to thicken it up though.  

Since the steak was already cooked I added the veggies right away, if it was uncooked I'd let it cook a bit before adding the veggies so they don't get to soft.

Once the veggies were in I added the tablespoon of Epicure Fajita Seasoning and stirred everything all up.  Then I let it basically heat up for about 7-8 minutes, until the veggies had softened up a bit.

That's it, that's all...when everything is ready to go it was fajita making time. 

So I always start off with a plain flour tortilla...well d'uh, don't we all:)

Then I add a little bit of sour cream.

Next up is some salsa.

Then the cheese.

Finally time for the meat and veggies.

And my finished product looks like this:)

I must say, not bad for leftovers...I may convert to a leftovertarian yet...lol.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

In Hot Water

I never knew how many uses there really was for chicken until I started doing a lot of cooking...chicken puts the term "million and one uses" to shame.  I swear that there is an infinite amount of ways to use chicken and it seems like a good majority can start with just plain old poached chicken. 

Whenever I used to hear the term "poached" all I could think of was those nasty hunks of meat with no flavour, no texture and just bleeeech.  That was until I started poaching my own chicken and realized that if I did up a bunch at once and then shredded it I'd have a quick lunch, dinner on hand in the freezer that I just needed to "spice up" to my liking.  As far as I'm concerned, ideas like this are born from genius...lol. 

I started by just using plain old boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  They did the job but I was positive I could do better.  Then I went hunting in my freezer and found some bone-in, skinless breasts that I'm pretty sure had been there for awhile.  The nice thing about poaching the chicken is it adds moisture, which for some freezer dried, forgot about chicken is a good thing.  Shredding it to use for sandwiches, pizza, quesidillas, soups or anything else you want to use it for is great too, because it hides the fact that I've forgotten this poor hunk of meat in the freezer and have brought it back to life, hopefully:)  Even better is that once I'm done, all I have to do is strain the liquid in the pot and I've got homemade chicken broth/stock...talk about waste not, want not!!

Poached Chicken

4 Bone-In, Skinless Chicken Breasts
10-11 Cups Water/Stock/Broth (I usually just use water because I'm seasoning it anyway)

2 Bay Leaves
1 Tsp Epicure Poultry Seasoning
1 Tsp Epicure Pot Herbs
1 1/2 Tbsp Epicure Chicken Bouillon Base
2-4 Sprigs Fresh Thyme (or 1 Tsp Dried)
Handful of Fresh Parsley (or 1/2-1 Tsp Dried)
A good pinch of salt

To start I place the chicken pieces in a single layer in the bottom of a stock/soup pot that has a tight fitting lid.  Cover them with enough liquid to have about 1"-1 1/2" over top, which for me is 10-11 cups.  Then toss everything else it.  I love how easy that is:)

Bring it to a boil, uncovered, skimming any crap off the top as it comes up.

This is the crap you want to skim off
Once it starts to boil, turn the heat down to keep it at a slow simmer and let it simmer, partially covered for 10-12 minutes. 

Turn the heat off and fully cover it tightly and allow the chicken to sit in the hot water for 20 minutes.  I aim for an internal temperature of 165F once it's done. 

Once it's done, I just shred it using 2 forks and then divide it up into 1 cup or 2 cup portions and freeze it. 

Even better, like I said earlier, I strain the remaining liquid and voila, homemade chicken stock/broth.

I love how doing this keeps me ahead of the game when I'm under the gun for a quick lunch/dinner and it also lets me have my own chicken stock/broth on hand, that isn't full of salt, to use for soups, stews etc.  I ended up with about 6 cups of shredded chicken and 11 cups of chicken stock/broth:)

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Hooked on Fish

So I've been kinda MIA the past few days but I think I have a pretty good excuse, you see, this past weekend was a bit of a big weekend for me. 

On Saturday we had our nephew Zachary's 2nd Birthday Party and after I went out with some friends to see another my buddy Scott play, his band is called After the Lounge and they're pretty good...check out the link and see for yourself:) 

Sunday was an early day, up at 5am to help out at Gopher Dunes, it's a nearby motocross track and they were hosting the CMRC Opener...it's always so much fun there.  It's not just motocross there either, every Spring and Fall they have a 4x4 Mud Run and it is CRAZY!! 

Remember how I said Aaron was going back to work with his brother and Dad...well yesterday was his first day so of course the absolutely awesome wife that I am, I cooked up his favorite...Chicken Parmesan for dinner.  I know I've already posted that recipe so I didn't want to repeat it for you:)

Here's the big part of the past few days though...are you ready...I was inducted into the Niagara College Knights Hall of Fame on Friday night.  I'm extremely honoured by this and am still flying on cloud nine.  You see in college I played a little bit of basketball, to be honest, I lived it, I breathed it and I dreamed about it.  I started playing when I was about 10 years old and it was my passion for a lot of years, so to be recognized and inducted into the Hall of Fame is a pretty big deal to me.  You can check out this article that was in my local paper, the Simcoe Reformer, if you want:)

Anyways, enough about me, this blog is about cooking and I've been hung up on fish lately.  I know eventually I'm going to have to branch out in the fish waters and start cooking something other then tilapia but it's what's in my freezer right now so that's what we had tonight. 

Remember last week when I friaked, well tonight I changed it up a bit and did a little bit of froiling...you know, fry it and then broil it.  I used the same marinade as I did when I friaked, a Chili Lime version, because I really liked the flavour.  I did however, make a change...instead of Panko I dredged the fillets in a little flour mixture and after I fried them I brushed them with some mayo, grated some fresh Romano on top and tossed them under the broiler like that. 

Since I've been telling you all about it I guess it's time I got down to the nitty gritty and just give you the recipe:)

Froiled Romano Tilapia
(adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen)

For the Marinade

1/4 c. Lime Juice
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Tsp Chipotle Chili Powder
1/2 Tsp Paprika
1/2 Tsp Dried Cilantro
1/2 Tsp Coriander Seed
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Tsp Honey
1/4 Tsp Celery Salt
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper

For the Fish

2 Tilapia Fillets
1/2 c. Flour
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
Salt and Pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp Mayo
3 Tbsp Fresh Grated Romano Cheese (or Parmesan)
1-2 Tbsp Avocado Oil

Start off by mixing all of the marinade ingredients together and placing the fillets in either a shallow bowl or Ziplock bag, adding the marinade and let it sit in the fridge for about 45 minutes.

Next, in a shallow bowl, add the flour, cayenne and some salt and pepper.  Mix that up and when the fillets are done marinating, lightly dredge them in the flour mix. 

Heat the oil over medium high heat and add the fillets.  Cook them 3-4 minutes per side, carefully flipping them over so they don't fall apart and do your best not to peek!!  While they're cooking put your oven to broil and take a baking sheet that can take the heat of the broiler, cover it with some aluminum foil and lightly grease the foil. 

Once the fillets are done cooking, carefully place them on the baking sheet.  Brush them gently with the mayo and top them with the grated cheese.  Place them under the broiler for another 3-4 minutes, you want the cheese to start to brown. 

From here, serve them up nice and hot...the cheese will crisp up a bit as it cools.  I served mine with Epicure's Roasted Garlic Aioli. 

Connor, who complains every time I make fish didn't mind this.  I think it's because it didn't fall apart and flake like fish normally does.  He almost thought it was chicken...lol.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Word for the Day...Friaked...Fried then Baked

I'm going to go out on a limb and say you've never heard my word for the day before.  I'm thinking I should give Webster's a call and let them know they can add it to next years edition.  Just to clarify, the base word is Friake, but while you're cooking you're Friaking and once your done you've Friaked and since you're the one doing the Friaking you can consider yourself a Friaker...I mean the possibilities are endless aren't they:)

Anywho, since I've decided that I'm a bona fide Friaker I wanted to try something out tonight.  First, I wanted to Friake some Tilapia, the last time I made it, it just didn't have enough the "crunch" for me and second, I've been chomping at the bit to try doing a Chili Lime version because I really want to use my Epicure Chili Lime Sansel. 

Friaked Chili Lime Tilapia

For the Marinade

1/4 c. Lime Juice
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Tsp Chipotle Chili Powder
1/2 Tsp Paprika
1/2 Tsp Dried Cilantro
1/2 Tsp Coriander Seed
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Tsp Honey
1/4 Tsp Celery Salt
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper

For the Breading

3/4 c. Panko Breadcrumbs
1/2 Tsp Ground Coriander
1 Tsp Garlic Powder
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper

For the Fish

2 Tilapia Fillets
1-2 Tbsp Avocado Oil
1 Tbsp Mayo
1/4 Tsp Epicure Chili Lime Sansel
Salt & Pepper

Start off by combining all of the marinade ingredients together.  Place the fillets in a shallow bowl and pour the marinade all over, spooning some onto the top to make sure they are well covered.  Cover and put in the fridge for 30-45 minutes.

Into the Marinade for the Little Fishy's
While the fillets are hanging out in the fridge combine the mayo and Epicure Chili Lime Sansel with a little bit of salt and pepper. 

Chili Lime Sansel Mayo Mix...Doesn't that look yummy!!

Next up is the breading, mix all of the ingredients together in a shallow bowl and set aside until you're ready.

The Crispy Crunch for my Fishy's

About 10-15 minutes before you're ready to to start playing with your food preheat your oven to 400F.

Once the fillets are done marinading take one and allow it to drip off for a few seconds and then brush on some of the Chili Lime Mayo.

All done Marinading

Brushing on a Little Bit of Extra Flavor

From here it's into the breading...coat both sides really well, I will press the breading into the fillets to make sure I get a lot on there.

All Crunched Up and Ready to Go

Once the fillets are coated really well take a large frying pan and heat the Avocado Oil over medium high heat.  Add the fillets and pan fry about 2-3 minutes per side.  Take a wire rack lightly coated with oil on top of a baking sheet and carefully place the fillets on it. It's into the oven they go after that.

Out of the Frying Pan & Into the Oven Next

Cook them in the oven for about 5-10 minutes.  You'll know they're done when they flake easily or have an internal temperature of 140-145F.

The Finished Product

We had ours with Roasted Asparagus and a mix of Black/Brown Rice with Shallots, Celery and Garlic...mmm...mmm good:)

Now that's a dinner worth finishing right there!!