Veggie and Meat Fondue delivers a low prep and delicious dinner!

The last weekend of the holiday season is here.  Kids will be back to school on Monday and pretty much all operations return to regular schedules.  Perhaps you have one last weekend of hosting a dinner and are looking for something a little lighter than you have been eating over these past two weeks.  Why not try a fondue? I don’t do fondues often, but when I do, I’m reminded of how easy they are to prepare and how different and fun they are to enjoy. Guests can cook their own food at their own pace and enjoy the feeling of controlling how much they eat.  It’s naturally gluten-free for those guests who require that type of meal.  And, after this season of eating, you and your guests might find this a refreshing change.

Our parents introduced us to fondue in the 70’s.  It was quite a trend then (especially in Montreal where my family grew up) and I think my Mom was interested in it because it seemed like easier prep and she was always looking for fresh ideas to get us to eat a variety of foods.  She did chunks of chicken and beef cooked in peanut oil, served with rice and salad. We always had some dipping sauce for the meat. We liked it a lot, although my Dad was a bit impatient with it and always wanted multiple forks to use so he didn’t have to wait as long to eat!!  We used to tease him about that!

In the 80’s, our parents introduced us to Chinese Fondue.  This is one where you have paper thin slices of beef that you roll onto your fondue fork and cook in a delicious broth.  You also cook vegetables in this broth. We grew to love this version because it seemed less stressful than cooking with the hot oil and also you got to incorporate lots of veggies in the dinner.  We still served it with rice and salad and dipping sauces. Cooked shrimp that are warmed up in the broth can also be added. Once you are done with all the cooking, the broth will have great flavour.  So, crack a fresh egg in it and whisk it up and then you can serve little bowls of egg drop soup at the end of the meal. It’s so tasty, but don’t forget to let everyone know you are doing this so they save some room to enjoy it!

When I was in university, friends were also into this dinner.  It was a great dinner to serve because it wasn’t all that expensive and you didn’t need any cooking skills!  One of the things that can happen is that the items fall off your fork and into the broth. No worries, there’s a tool for that!  Keep one of these small basket tools handy and you’ll rescue the items quickly and easily. Most kitchen stores would have them.unnamed

 

(Or if you are like one of my university friends, turn it into a game and if you lose what’s on your fork, you have to drink the contents of your glass!!  He thought that was funny back in the 80’s, but of course, only a handful of people were that adventurous!!)

 

 

Truthfully, I’ve always wondered whether this fondue is really Chinese, or was just a marketing thing back then.  So, when my husband and I decided that’s what we’d do for New Year’s Eve this year, I took to the internet to see if Chinese Fondue was a real thing…I looked it up and found that it is also referred to as Chinese Hot Pot cooking.  In Montreal, this meat is readily available in grocery stores in the frozen section and at the butcher counter. We try to bring some home when we visit family because it’s not readily available at our grocery stores where we live. You can get it, but need to ask the butcher to pre-order it.  That’s because they freeze it slightly to get it sliced very thinly. And, because it’s a specialty item, it’s more expensive than I’m used to paying in Montreal. So, for our New Year’s Eve fondue this year, we substituted stir-fry strips and it worked well too.

Here’s what you need to do to put together the fondue dinner:

  1. Heat up about 2 litres of good quality chicken broth on the stove.  Transfer to your fondue pot and light the flame beneath your pot. (You can make your own broth or use best quality low salt broth available at your grocery store).  Follow directions and cautions on your fondue pot for using fuel correctly
  2. Cut vegetables in large enough pieces to stay on the fondue fork.  I use mushrooms, peppers, and broccoli. (Cauliflower and Brussel sprouts would also work)
  3. Arrange meat and vegetables on a platter.  (I also add large cooked shrimp that can be heated up in the pot). Budget about a half pound of meat per person and 3 or 4 shrimp each, depending on the size of shrimp.  (Some will eat less, and some more but these amounts will ensure you don’t run short!)
  4. Serve with dipping sauces:  Two favourites are two parts steak or BBQ sauce with 1 part mayonnaise and a teaspoon of honey, and cocktail sauce if you are having shrimp.  Be creative with your sauces and make up your own recipe…we also like Asian sesame, ginger or peanut sauces…use spicy sauces if you like it hot
  5. Prepare your favourite rice and salad to serve with the meal, and perhaps some fresh bread (regular or gluten-free)
  6. At the end of the meal, crack an egg in the pot.  Whisk for 1 minute and serve small bowls of deliciously flavoured soup, thanks to all the meat and veggie cooking!

 

And for dessert???  Chocolate fondue, of course!  (That may be a future post!)

Preparation and clean-up are a breeze for this meal, so relax and enjoy!  And, if you’ve got leftovers, just turn it into a stir-fry for the next day!  Drop me a note to let me know how you enjoyed it!

 

Dinner with Friends! (…there’s bacon in this one!)

…a Rotating Dinner Party….

Sharing a meal with family and friends is one of my favourite things to do!  My husband and I are part of a group of five couples who have been friends since university days (and a few of them are friends from high school).  Through all the changes life brings, the core of this group has remained friends for over 40 years. Many years ago, this group set up regular dinner parties every few months where one couple hosts, and the others bring contributions to the dinner.  The hosting couple provides the main meal and the other couples bring either, appetizers, salad, soup or dessert. Since everyone is focusing only on one dish, each course is usually a gastronomic event, and there is always tons of food…and, of course, laughter.

At the last dinner party, my husband and I signed up to bring salad.  One of my favourite salads to make is Caesar salad with dressing made from scratch.  The recipe I use is one that I received from one of my aunts many, many years ago. It is yummy and always gets tons of compliments from everyone.  And, unlike my two previous posts, this is a time for bacon!  I can eat tons of this salad at one sitting! What I love about it is the freshness of the ingredients and how they combine together. It is simple to make because there is not a lot of chopping and you can make the dressing the day before, or the morning before you need it.  Romaine lettuce, cooked bacon, croutons and dressing are all you need. Sometimes I make my own bread croutons and I love when I have time to do that! If not, I purchase a good quality crouton with no additives and simple ingredients. I don’t flavour the croutons very much because the Caesar dressing has all the flavour you need.  IMG-1915

Another option for croutons is to make chickpea croutons.  This is a great substitution if you have diners that need a gluten-free option.  I first tasted chickpea croutons a few years ago in a Caesar salad at a local restaurant and was surprised at how they crumbled just like a bread crouton.  

I’ve made a few attempts to make my own and they are getting better, but I still need to experiment and refine the recipe. My niece, A, who I’ve written about on this blog, sent me a few ideas to try, so you may see this recipe posted in a future entry once it’s perfected!

Try out this delicious Caesar recipe, you won’t be disappointed!  Everyone at our dinner party enjoyed it very much. As I mentioned, these dinner parties are full of great food and because the dates are set once a year a few months apart, they are a great way to ensure that the group gets connected regularly.  Everyone enjoys the parties very much. Although hosting a dinner party for 10 might seem onerous, this one is definitely manageable because the hosts only need to focus on the main dish, and all the other courses are provided by the other couples.

It’s always fun to see what people make and the food is always delicious.  Our hosts for this dinner were C and G. They are wonderful hosts and enjoy cooking and eating very much. If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you’ll know that I’ve asked some of my friends and family to let me know if they have a favourite cookbook and why they like it. Our host, G, provided this information about his favourite cookbook, Just Add Shoyu  – A Culinary Journey of Japanese Canadian Cooking:  “This hardcover cookbook takes me home to cooking my mother and grandmother made.  Food for the eyes, our body and soul. The true umami taste of food is in every recipe.  There are beautiful colour photos on every recipe.  This book was written by members of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre”. 

Please feel free to leave a reply to share your ideas on stress free group get togethers or your favourite cookbook.  Try out the Caesar recipe!  Happy cooking and be well!

Guilt Free Weekend Eggs!

If you’ve read my previous post, you know I’ve been enjoying the healthy goodness of eggs without the trappings of fatty, salted meats.  (I still do enjoy bacon in some cases, but that’s a post for another day!). I love my Sunday morning eggs and this weekend, I was in the mood to try cooking them a little differently than usual.  Typically, I’ll scramble them and add whatever veggies I have on hand. Yesterday, I was in the mood for a runny yolk and wondered what would happen if I left the eggs whole, put the sliced veggies in the bowl and slide the whole thing into the pan to cook sunny side up. IMG-2192

I let the contents cook for a bit, then decided to turn it over once to reveal a lightly browned under side.IMG-2193

Next, I decided to quickly flip it back over to reveal a lovely over-easy yolk, with slightly blistered tomatoes and wilted spinach…I added two slices of spelt toast and I had a visually pleasing, tasty, nutritious, healthy breakfast, with just a few cracks of black pepper – nothing else.  

Clean up was quick and easy – one bowl, one pan, one plate and cutlery, and my tummy and taste buds were satisfied for hours! I’ll bet you can do this in a larger pan with 6 to 8 eggs and then use a plate to flip it like a fritatta! The presentation would be beautiful!

Try it out – eggs without bacon – add whatever vegetables you have – be creative!  And, if you can, please share your idea for your favourite egg dish in the comments below.  I’m always looking for different ideas! Happy cooking, friends! Be well.

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…

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”