The Daffodils Should be in Bloom…but We’re Still Warming up with Soup in my Corner of the World!

Normally on April 15th in my corner of the world, we are looking at daffodils in bloom and looking forward to the rest of the spring to come.  Instead, here’s was the view outside my door today!

Snow in April 2018
Notice the unhappy spring planter in the bottom right of the photo!

 

 

We’ve had two days of freezing rain and snow here, which is unusual for this time of year.  If you saw my Instagram post from three days ago, you would have read that Mother Nature has not yet turned her calendar to spring in my city.  It’s been cold, but for the last two days, Mother Nature has sent us some unrelenting and unwelcome winter weather.  So, for me, that means it’s still time for comfort food and so soup is once again on the stove!

 

I have this great recipe for low-fat cream of broccoli soup that I have been making for more than 20 years.  It calls for skim milk, chicken broth and flour as the thickening agent instead of cream.  It is delicious, but about 3 years ago I wanted to reduce the number of steps in the recipe, and eliminate the dairy and flour to make it more friendly for one of my family members who follows a gluten-free and lactose-free diet.  Continue reading “The Daffodils Should be in Bloom…but We’re Still Warming up with Soup in my Corner of the World!”

Tasty ‘Bookends’ to our Fun Family Easter Dinner…good food never goes out of style!

Easter is one of my favourite family holidays.  I enjoy it because it has close to the same festive atmosphere as Christmas, and allows you to focus on just being together and sharing good times and a good meal.  That’s probably because the Easter ‘season’ is much shorter than the Christmas season and it’s without work parties, neighbourhood parties, presents, baking, decorating, etc.  I do enjoy the Christmas prep and Christmas season, but I have to say, I love the simplicity of Easter and the fact that it takes place mostly in Spring weather. Everyone is cheerful and looking forward to brighter days, and there is a short window to get the family together for a festive time, but minus the big lead up…it’s a slower pace to a similar end goal.

When I was a kid, my very large extended family lived in close proximity and we were a party of over 20 people every Sunday, as well as Easter Sunday.  As kids, my siblings and I loved these fun family times with grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. As individual families grew and everyone’s life got more complicated maintaining these large gatherings that often was not possible, but the big family still connects for major events.  And, our smaller family of parents, siblings, nieces and nephews and grandchildren on both my side and my husband’s side of the family make our best efforts to connect for the holidays and regularly throughout the year. My husband and I love to host both our families whenever we can. For this year’s Easter dinner we hosted my husband’s family.  The question at this time for hosting is usually “Do we serve turkey or ham?”. We did go with turkey this time and tried to lighten up the side dishes with lighter, spring flavours such as grilled asparagus and roasted cauliflower. (In a future blog post, I’ll feature my Mom’s classic Italian Easter dinner, which is based on foods her Mom used to make at Easter…lots of eggs are involved in that!!)

As you may have read in my January 5, 2018 post, I always cook the turkey a day ahead, so we followed that plan for this dinner too.  It’s a lot of work no matter when you cook the turkey, but doing it a day ahead means you have time and energy to socialize with your guests on the day of your dinner.  And, if you follow the tips on my post, your turkey will be moist and tasty even when cooked a day ahead.

If you are reading this blog, you are likely a person who is interested in food and cooking, so like me, you probably have lots of food at every dinner you host and are just looking for a few tips and ideas to prompt your own creativity for meal preparation.  Even though we did a mostly traditional turkey dinner (turkey, stuffing, gravy), we lightened up the side dishes for spring with grilled asparagus, roasted cauliflower and baked mashed sweet potato with a drop of maple syrup to signal spring flavours.

The ‘bookends’ to our meal were our appetizer plate and a moist, delicious chocolate cake made by my sister-in-law, L.  Dessert is one course of the meal that I can always skip, but I can never resist L’s chocolate cakes! This time she decorated it with gourmet chocolate Easter eggs.  It was a big hit as usual!

Our appetizer plate was fresh with prosciutto, a delicious Chianti salami, sheep and goat’s milk firm cheese, asiago cheese, simple crackers along with multi-grain breadsticks, olives, grapes and dried apricots.  Often, we will roll the prosciutto around the breadsticks, but this time we left them on their own and un-fussy. Whenever we had family get-togethers in the 70’s and 80’s my parents would serve plates like this…they were always tasty and it’s quite amusing to see them being trendy again.  Call it a cold cut platter, call it a charcuterie board….no matter what you call it, good food never goes out of style! I hope you are enjoying some time with your family this spring. Leave a note and share details of your family’s spring festivities! Happy cooking…eat well and be well…

A Nod to My Irish/Italian Heritage

While scanning the grocery flyers last weekend, I was inspired by the offering of a seasoned corned beef brisket for St. Patrick’s Day weekend.  As I may have said on this blog before, I grew up in an Irish and Italian household.  Most of the food we ate was Italian, but my Mom frequently made some of my Dad’s Irish favourites.  My Dad never did any cooking, but was definitely an enthusiastic diner of all my Mom’s dishes! He was effusive in his praise and you always knew how much he enjoyed the food and the company.  As a kid, I can’t say I enjoyed the corned beef and cabbage, but I did learn to appreciate it once I was an adult.  It’s been a long time since my Mom has made this, and I had never made it on my own before, so I was inspired to try it this past weekend.  I didn’t love the idea of boiled cabbage because I don’t find the flavour to be that interesting, but I do love when my Mom makes her Italian Style Sautéed Cabbage, so I decided to combine the two.

Corned Beef and sauteed cabbage March 2018
Corned Beef with Italian Style Sautéed Cabbage

I did the seasoned brisket according to the directions provided, which were to simmer the brisket in boiling water for 2 to 3 hours!  (It’s a good thing I read the directions when it came home from the grocery store so that I could plan enough time to have it ready!)  Preparing the cabbage is much simpler!   Continue reading “A Nod to My Irish/Italian Heritage”

“I want to cook ahead…where to start”?

If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know I’m a big fan of doing a little cooking ahead so you can enjoy delicious, healthy meals all week without a huge effort.  I know some people have a hard time knowing where to start with that, so here are two easy tips that I use when I don’t have a ton of time to cook ahead:

  1. Cook rice ahead.  Brown rice is nutritious, low in fat, and a delicious base for any meal.  And, it’s naturally gluten-free, so if you have someone in your family who needs to follow a gluten-free diet, it’s a great choice.  Rice can take a while to cook, so if you are getting home from work and are in a rush to get dinner on the table, you are likely to skip this delicious addition to your meal.  But, if you’ve got some already made that you just need to heat up, you’ll have a lovely dinner in no time.  If you are in a huge rush, just add a tin of tuna, or some cooked chicken to the rice – or even some canned chickpeas or black beans for protein.  No time for chopping vegetables?  Have some baby spinach on hand and throw it in…it can be hot or cold.  Slightly wilted spinach is still tasty and beautiful.  Of course, you can cook any type of rice you like.  My favourite is brown rice with wild rice.  The wild rice is a little expensive, so buy it in the bulk section of your grocery store if you can.  Cook the rice in chicken broth or vegetable broth instead of water for extra flavour.  I add chopped vegetables when I have the time.  Adding the vegetables to the rice is not only nutritious, it makes the dish go farther and fill bellies more easily.  But, even if you don’t have time to do that, the brown rice and wild rice looks very appetizing on it’s own.  Take a look at the recipe and photo in this link.

2.  Unpack and bag your meat individually and marinate before freezing.  We often buy chicken, meat, and fish in large packs to create value for our hard earned dollars.  Rather than freezing the entire pack, we usually bag the pieces in servings of 4, 2 or 1 to give us flexibility for using the items in different cooking situations.  How many times have you bought a big pack of chicken thinking it was a great deal, thrown it in the freezer and then weeks later, wondering how you are going to use that pack, or unsuccessfully tried to separate the rock-hard frozen pieces?  Taking a little time to bag things in smaller quantities will save you time, frustration and money down the road.  Many years ago, my husband and I went to SupperWorks a number of times to have a fun way of cooking together.   One of the time-saving tips we learned from those outings was that you could marinate your meat, chicken or fish before freezing it.  That never occurred to us before.  How many times have you defrosted some chicken before leaving for work and then got home and thought, “now what am I going to do with it?”.  Marinating before freezing makes the decision for you and makes it more likely that you will be motivated to cook delicious, healthy meals during your busy weeks, rather than opting for take-out, or frozen food.  One of our favourite things to marinate ahead is Maple BBQ Salmon.  This recipe is my own version after searching a number of recipes on-line years ago.  Doing your own marinating and seasoning means you can control what goes into it.  Many store prepared marinades are high in salt, sugar and have other additives that your body doesn’t need.  Check out the recipe here.  We mostly do this on a cedar plank on the Barbeque, and it also works very well in the oven.

So, if you are looking to improve your nutrition by cutting down on store bought meals, start with the two tips from this blog entry  – or maybe just one!  Be kind to yourself – try it out, and congratulate yourself for the steps you are taking!  By the way, if you have a SupperWorks in your area and haven’t been, check them out.  It’s a fun outing for those who like to cook together, whether you are a spouse, friends, or with your kids.

Happy cooking!  Be well!

Soup for Cold Days – Part 2

In last week’s blog, I talked about the glories of soup on a cold day.  February is a great month to focus on soup!  Maybe you’ve already tried the Hearty Tomato and Grain Soup recipe I posted.  I hope you enjoyed it!  One of my favourite soups was always my Mom’s homemade Chicken or Turkey soup.  She always made her own broth and it was so delicious.  I always try to make some time to make a broth with the carcass of a chicken or turkey I’ve roasted.  It’s not hard to do, but you do need to have about an hour to monitor the simmering pot.  For me, this is also one of those aromas that creates the comfort of home.  Even if I don’t have a plan for the broth right away, I make it and freeze it to use at a later date.  I find it interesting that ‘bone broth’ is such a trending phrase now because my Mom’s generation and many of us have been doing this for decades!  Goodness is always in fashion and doesn’t need to be a trend!

As I said last week, prepared and condensed soups you buy in grocery stores can be tasty, but read the labels.  There are many things listed on those labels that should make you think before using this food as a regular part of your weekly meals.  Focus on eliminating salt and additives in your diet little by little and your palate will adjust to healthy food that is tasty too!

This week’s soup, pictured below, was made using the broth I made from the turkey we roasted at Christmas.  There are no big secrets to making delicious, healthy broth from chicken, turkey or beef bones that you have collected after a lovely roast.  Here is the recipe for delicious, healthy broth that will turn into a lovely soup or stew: Continue reading “Soup for Cold Days – Part 2”

Cold days call for soup!

I love soups, especially in this cold, wintery weather.  I love how they warm my tummy on cold days and give a sense of comfort when we are feeling unwell.  There are many options for prepared soups, from simple, old-fashioned condensed canned soup to the more gourmet fully prepared type in today’s grocery stores.  These products can be tasty, but read the labels!  Most are quite high in salt, and other things that are best not to put into your body on a regular basis.  I love making soups at home.  These healthy alternatives fill your body with the goodness of a number of food groups and nutrients at once, and if you keep the recipe fairly simple, it doesn’t take much time at all.  If you make a big pot, you can have it for more than a few meals.  Soups are also something you can involve kids in making by having them collect all the ingredients for you and add to the pot, or by chopping the vegetables if they are old enough to handle a knife.  While the soup cooks, your house will be filled with that great aroma that brings a sense of home to everyone.  If you have been in the habit of eating prepared or store-bought soups for a while, your palate might take a little adjusting to enjoying your food with less salt, but in no time, you will prefer the taste of your own creations!  Stick with it, and you will do yourself a lot of good by reducing your intake of salt and additives, no matter what your age!  

I have been making soups for many years and really love them.  Today’s recipe is one I found last winter and it couldn’t be easier!  It’s also hearty enough to be a full meal, if you like.  And, it’s gluten-free and can be vegetarian if you use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and cooked chicken.  So it can be a meatless crowd pleaser for a skating party, Grey Cup party, Super Bowl party, your staff soup day at work, or the differing dietary needs of your family and friends.

Hearty Tomato and Grain Soup

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: very easy
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Hearty Tomato Grain Soup

I found this recipe on the package of PC Blue Menu Soup Mix in the winter of 2017 and I could not believe how easy and tasty it was!  I also add chopped carrots and celery in the last 15 minutes of cooking, and if I have some cooked chicken bits in the freezer that I saved from my last roast chicken, I add that too.  But the recipe is very delicious on it’s own, so go ahead and enjoy this easy, hearty dish!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mixed grains/legumes (brown rice, barley, split peas, lentils)
  • 1 – 20 ounce can diced tomatoes  (I prefer the no salt version)
  • 1 litre (4 cups) low salt chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • Half to one tbsp Olive Oil
  • ¾ cup chopped carrots (optional)
  • ¾ cup chopped celery (optional)
  • ¼ cup cooked chicken shredded or finely chopped (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in pot; add chopped onion and cook until fragrant and translucent
  2. Add the mixed grains/legumes
  3. Add the can tomatoes
  4. Add chicken broth
  5. Add water
  6. Bring to a boil
  7. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 60 to 80 minutes.  Grains should be tender, but not too soft
  8. Optional:  In the last 15 minutes of cooking add chopped carrots, celery chicken, or whatever vegetables you prefer!                

posted by: everydayhomegourmet.blog/

 

A Roast for Two Turns into Another Dish

Many people think that cooking a roast is something you do for a group of four or more, but cooking a roast for two (or even one!) gives you the advantage of enjoying that classic Sunday dish that your Mom made, as well as some great leftovers for the week.  I always try to buy roasts when they are on sale and freeze them so I have one when the mood strikes me.  I have been successful buying roasting chickens, roast pork and roast beef of different cuts on sale in a size suitable for about 4 people, which gives that initial delicious meal, as well as creating tasty leftovers for the week.

A couple of Sundays ago, we had a lovely Prime Rib for two with Yorkshire pudding, steamed green beans, and salad.  My Mom’s Yorkshire Pudding is the best, and I struggle to get mine as nice as hers.  In this picture, you’ll see that I did a pretty good job!  As a kid, I loved anything with gravy and as an adult, I have learned I can enjoy a roast very much without gravy, but this frigid January weather calls for some delicious warm gravy!   I made the gravy from scratch using the Gravy without drippings recipe that I mentioned in an earlier post.  I added my drippings at the end.

Prime rib and yorkshire pudding (2)
Prime Rib Roast, with Yorkshire Pudding, Steamed Green Beans and Gravy Without Drippings

Whenever I prepare a roast, I use my Mom’s method, along with some tips I have learned along the way from reading cook books and food websites.  My Mom always put pieces of garlic cloves inside the roast and made a paste with dry mustard and a little water that she spread on top of the roast.  Just take your knife and make a few holes in the roast then stuff the hole with a piece of a garlic clove.  Add a little water to dry mustard, whisk and spread on top.  Here’s what it looks like.

I cook the roast at higher heat, about 425 degrees for approximately 20 minutes to seal in the flavour.  Then I turn the heat down to about 325-350, depending on your oven, to finish the cooking.  Check the weight of your roast and refer to a roasting chart to know approximately how long to cook the roast to your liking before you begin.  Always, always use a meat thermometer.  It allows you to monitor the cooking and be sure that you are removing the roast from the oven at the right time.  We like medium rare beef, but your meat thermometer will help you achieve your desired ‘doneness’.

Although there is nothing wrong with eating the very same meal as leftovers, I always like it when the leftovers can be turned into a different dish.  Continue reading “A Roast for Two Turns into Another Dish”