Sunday, November 26, 2017

Chinese Meatballs




My mother loves trying out new recipes. This is one that she first made when I was about 13. I can envision the kitchen it was prepared in. We were living in a rented duplex, shortly after moving to Prince George, before purchasing a home. The meatballs and vegetables, with a hint of sweetness, were served over rice. It was a big hit with the whole family, and became a tried and true dish. 

There's a bit of a joke with this recipe now. My mom used get us children to help roll the meatballs, as she often made more than one recipe. She liked the meatballs to be small, and would check on the progress my sister and I were making. "Too big," she would say, and we would pinch off little bits and make them smaller. I think of those days every time I make the recipe. So I was shocked when I was at my parents' house a couple of years ago and Mom had made meatballs that were NOT as small as they used to be! Whatever size, they are delicious.

I don't know that there's much Chinese about this recipe, except that it seems any recipe with soy sauce is labeled as such. This is not a sweet and sour recipe, but rather a meat and vegetable dish with a hint of sweetness and oriental flavour. 

Chinese Meatballs (and Vegetables), slightly adapted from the original

Meatballs

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork (or use all beef)
5 medium-sized white mushrooms, cleaned and finely chopped - I'm going to guess about 1/2-3/4 cup
1/4 cup finely minced onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1/4-1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch

Mix the ingredients thoroughly. Form into small balls (less than 1 inch) and fry until cooked through. Remove from pan.

Vegetables and Sauce

1-2 sweet red bell peppers, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
1 tin pineapple chunks, drained, save the juice
1 or 2 chopped fresh tomatoes
1 Tablespoon oil

2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup reserved pineapple juice

Heat the oil in a skillet. Use the same pan that was used for the meatballs, providing there are no burned bits. Add the peppers and carrots, stir fry for 5-8 minutes or until tender crisp. Add the pineapple, and meatballs.

Stir together the cornstarch, water, soy sauce and pineapple juice. Add to skillet and stir until slightly thickened. Stir in tomatoes and cook about 10 minutes. 

Serve over rice.  



Monday, November 20, 2017

Stuffed Mushrooms



There is no end to what might be used to stuff a mushroom. These are simple: onions, garlic, cheese, mushroom stems, and seasonings. No bread crumbs are used, making them great for low-carb or gluten-free diets. 

They are delicious as a side dish and also as appetizers. They can be frozen and reheated, making them great for doing ahead. Since everything is cooked before assembling, they can sit in the fridge for a day before baking, if you don't want to freeze them. 

The recipe is very forgiving on amounts; use your judgement. 

Stuffed Mushrooms

12 medium-sized white mushrooms, cleaned
1 small white onion, finely minced
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup finely shredded cheese - I like Swiss or Gouda
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1 teaspoon minced parsley
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil 

1. Remove the stems from the mushroom caps. Reserve. Lightly oil the tops of the caps. Place top-side down in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. 

2. Meanwhile, mince the mushroom stems. Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a skillet and saute the mushroom stems, onion and garlic until tender and fragrant, about 5-10 minutes. Turn up the heat towards the end to brown a little.

3. The mushroom caps will have collected some water in them as they cool. Gently pour the mushroom liquid into the onion mixture and stir. Add thyme, salt and pepper. Let cool.

4. Add the finely grated cheese to the cooled onion mixture. Fill the caps. Press the mixture in. There may be some stuffing remaining. 

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until hot. Serve immediately or freeze for later. 

Empanadas (Beef Turnovers)




Empanadas are popular throughout Latin and South America. When we lived in Ecuador, a favourite treat was a crisply fried fresh cheese empanada purchased from a woman creating them on the street. Because they were fried in hot oil, they were safe to eat. 

There are many varieties of empanadas, which literally means "wrapped or coated in bread." Cheese, onions, fruit, meat - almost anything can be used. 

These particular empanadas give a nod to Argentina with their beef filling. They are small, and baked, not fried. I use a cream cheese pastry that is easy to handle, but any pastry will work. 

Pastry:

8 oz (250 g) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (125 ml) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) all-purpose flour

1. Beat together cream cheese and butter.
2. Mix in flour until dough forms. 
3. Form into 2 flat disks, wrap well (I use waxed paper and then slip them into a plastic bag), and chill for 1 hour. 

Note: I use my food processor for this recipe and it comes together in a flash. 

Filling:

1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 Tablespoons minced onion
1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, well drained
2 Tablespoons chopped raisins
2 Tablespoons chopped green olives
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped

1 egg, slightly beaten
2 Tablespoons (or so) sesame seeds

1. Heat oil in skillet (medium high heat), add ground beef and onion. Scramble fry until browned. It's important to break apart any clumps - the mixture should be quite fine.

2. Stir in the tomatoes, raisins, olives, Worcestershire sauce, salt and oregano. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often. Taste a bit and adjust seasonings. I like to add a bit of pepper, and usually, more salt and oregano. There should be a lot of flavour. Cool to room temperature.

3. Stir in chopped egg. 

4. Remove pastry from fridge. I usually have to let it warm up a bit - 30 minutes or so, before rolling. Roll pastry to about 1/8 inch thickness (fairly thin) on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 3 inch rounds. 

5. To fill, I find it easiest to pick up a round in my hand, moisten one half of the edge with the beaten egg, then add 1 teaspoon or so of the filling. Fold in half, press with fingers to seal well. For an extra firm seal, you can press the edges with a fork tine. 

6. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Cut small slits in the top - I poke twice with a fork. Brush with beaten egg; sprinkle with sesame seeds.

7. Bake at 400 degrees F for 12-15 minutes or until browned. Serve hot. Makes 3 1/2 to 4 dozen pastries. 

8. These can be frozen either before or after baking. I usually freeze them after, then heat them up in the oven just before serving. They're good served with a bit of salsa.  

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Pumpkin Chiffon Cake




For my birthday recently, my husband gave me a copper beating bowl. He knew how much I admired Monet's kitchen in Giverny and all the copper pots and bowls hanging on the wall there. 
In an odd bit of coincidence, my youngest daughter gave me a set of copper measuring spoons. The two had not discussed the copper focus at all. 
Fun!

To try out my new bowl, I made this chiffon cake. It's based on an online recipe by Rachael Ray, but slightly altered. Mine turned out a wee bit underbaked at the recommended 55 minutes, so I've upped the recommended time to 60 minutes. It's a wonderfully light and airy cake and one I'll be making again. 

Pumpkin Chiffon Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 eggs yolks
1 cup pumpkin puree
9 egg whites, at room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Have a two-part tube pan ready for baking. No grease needed.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. 

3. In another, smaller bowl, whisk the egg yolks until well blended and slightly paler. Whisk in the pumpkin puree. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients. 

4. In a clean, grease-free bowl (I used my copper beating bowl), beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of white sugar and continue beating until stiff but not dry. 

5. Add 1/4 of the egg white mixture to the pumpkin mixture. Gently fold until almost no streaks remain. 

6. Add the remainder of the egg whites to the bowl. Again, gently fold until no streaks remain. Pour carefully into the tube pan. 

7. Bake for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick or piece of uncooked spaghetti inserted into the cake comes out clean.

8. Turn the cake pan upside down and suspend over a funnel or propped between two cans or glasses until completely cool.

9. Carefully run a knife or off-set spatula between the outside of the cake pan and the cake to loosen. Separate the cake pan, then run a knife around the bottom of the cake to loosen and turn out cake onto serving plate. 

10. Make a runny glaze with icing sugar, soft butter, vanilla flavouring, and milk or cream. Drizzle over the cake top and sides. 




Friday, June 9, 2017

Sensational Lemon Roll




Fresh strawberries were the impetus to make this old-fashioned dessert last weekend. Well, strawberries and company coming. It's from an old Best of Bridge cookbook. The tart lemon filling is mellowed by whipped cream. Fresh strawberries aren't called for in the recipe, but they were a great addition.

Sensational Lemon Roll

Sponge Cake
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon grated orange rind
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla

Icing sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 10” x 15” jelly roll pan (edged cookie sheet) with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs until well combined, gradually beat in sugar. Continue beating until mixture is pale yellow and thickened, at least one minute.
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into egg mixture. Add the juice, rind and vanilla. Stir to mix.
Pour into pan. Bake 12-15 minutes; don’t overbake.
Invert cake onto a clean tea towel that has been sprinkled with icing sugar. Roll together and cool. When completely cool, unroll, fill with Lemon Filling, re-roll and chill several hours before slicing and serving.

Lemon Filling

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon grated lemon rind
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream
Fresh berries to garnish

In a double boiler, use a whisk to combine eggs, sugar, and lemon juice. Cook, stirring constantly, over simmering water, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Strain through a mesh strainer, then stir in the lemon rind. Cool completely. Whip the cream and fold into the lemon mixture. Chill until ready to assemble Lemon Roll.






Sunday, June 4, 2017

Gazpacho à la provençal



Chilled tomato soup is not only eaten in Spain, but throughout the Mediterranean region. This recipe is adapted from Laura Calder's book French Taste, and is utterly refreshed on a hot summer evening. It's so easy to make; simply chop, chill, and blend. 

Making tiny croutons as a topping is optional, but cubing, drizzling with olive oil, and sprinkling with salt and herbs, then baking until crispy results in tiny irresistible bites. Once I begin snacking on them, I find it hard to stop. 

Toppings are a fun part of eating this soup. Drizzle with olive oil and a little bit of balsamic vinegar, then add croutons, feta cheese, fresh basil, avocado - whatever takes your fancy.

Using fresh, garden-ripe tomatoes is ideal, but failing that, store-bought, vine-ripened, fully ripe tomatoes will suffice.

Gazpacho à la provençal


2 pounds ripe tomatoes, quartered, seeded, chopped
1/2 English cucumber, diced
1/2 sweet red bell pepper, diced
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup tomato juice, OR de-fatted chicken stock, OR vegetable stock
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
12 fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper
Honey (optional) I used 1 Tablespoon


Combine all ingredients in a large glass bowl. Cover and chill overnight. The next day, puree the mixture, leaving some chunks, if desired. Season to taste. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Peanut Butter Squares



Peanut butter plus chocolate. What's not to like? These little morsels are easy to make, freeze well, and taste good frozen (or slightly thawed), which make them rather dangerous. It's hard to eat just one.

Peanut Butter Squares

1 cup butter
2 cups peanut butter
2 1/2 cups graham wafer crumbs
1 3/4 cups icing sugar

4 squares semi-sweet chocolate OR
   2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 Tablespoons butter

First layer: In a large saucepan, melt together the butter (1 cup) and peanut butter. Stir well to mix. Remove from heat and add the graham wafer crumbs plus the icing sugar. 

Spread into a 9 x 13 pan (no need to grease it), and press down firmly and evenly. Chill. 

Second layer: Melt together the 3 Tablespoons of butter plus the chocolate. Stir well. Spread in a thin layer over the peanut butter mixture. Chill again.

Cut into small squares. Keep chilled or frozen.