Easy Borscht Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

1 small onion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic minced

2Tbsp grape seed oil (olive or vegetable oil would be fine)

1 can beets with liquid

½ red cabbage, shredded or finely sliced

3 stalks celery cut into large pieces (we remove them before blending, if you like celery slice it finely)

1 cup homemade vegetable stock (our was made with turnip, onion, carrot, and potato trimmings that we would have otherwise thrown out)

5 cups beef stock (or vegetable stock if you want a vegetarian soup)

6 sprigs fresh dill, whole

6 sprigs fresh thyme, whole

¼ cup pickle juice

Black pepper to taste

Garnish:

Sour cream

½ cup chopped fresh dill

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oil in large soup pot or dutch oven. Add onions and garlic and saute for about 2 minutes. Add stock, beets with liquid, cabbage, dill and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer for about 1 ½ hours. Remove the celery, dill, and thyme. Add pickle juice (or red wine vinegar) and blend with immersion blender. If you pot if very full, remove half and blend in batches. Let simmer another 15 – 20 minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh dill. Goes well with a nice slice of rye bread.

Enjoy.

In praise of autumn afternoons

Today I put aside my work for a while and took our dog, Max, for a stroll around the neighbourhood. And I am so glad that I did. The leaves are turning but not yet falling, the sedum, asters, and black-eyed susan are holding their own alongside the gorgeous giant sunflowers and other majestic plants that decorate the front yards and boulevards of our streets. The air is crisp, the breeze gentle, and Max’s tail maintained a rapid and enthusiastic wag for the duration of our walk. The point? As soon as you can, get outside and enjoy the season, wherever you might be, and if you are in a region where autumn has just begun, go out and enjoy the colours and wonders of this season. And share pictures if you can – I will be going out for a photo shoot to share here later this week, but need to get ready for work now. Thanks for reading.

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup with Herbed Dumplings

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 medium turnip

1 large parsnip

1 large carrot

¼ – ½ buttercup squash

1 sweet potato

1 onion

4 cloves garlic

2-3 tbsp olive oil

Sprinkling of dried rosemary, parsley, and thyme

Cracked pepper

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock

Dumpling mix with milk and fresh herbs

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F)

Cut you squash in half, remove the seeds and put a wee bit of oil and pepper in the centre (if you bought pre-cut squash just roast it along with the other vegetables, but wait about ½ hour to put the cubes in the oven).

Peel and chop the remaining vegetables into 1 –1 ½ inch cubes/discs. Toss with olive oil, herbs and cracked pepper. Peel onion and garlic, leave garlic cloves whole, quarter the onion. Place in a baking pan and roast for 1 hour or until soft and slightly browned.

Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, heat your stock. Prepare dumpling mixture. Once vegetables are cooked through, add about 1 cup at a time and puree with an immersion blender. If you prefer a chunky soup, puree about ½ way. Continue until all of the vegetables have been incorporated and the soup is at your desired consistency. Form dumplings into small balls and drop in the hot soup. Cover and let cook for about 15 minutes. Serve. If desired add grated nutmeg and grated Gruyere cheese as garnish.

Enjoy.

Savory Bread Pudding

Savory bread pudding with cheese sauce, mixed green salad, and a slice of crispy bacon.

Savory bread pudding with cheese sauce, mixed green salad, and a slice of crispy bacon.

After a couple of weeks with family visiting we had a lot of ends of cheese, a baguette drying out in the freezer, and nearly 2 dozen eggs just waiting to go bad. Not really a great meal for cholesterol reduction, but yummy and comforting and better than letting all that food go to waste.

INGREDIENTS:

Ingredients for step one.

Ingredients for step one.

1 baguette, cut into 1 inch cubes (challah or brioche would work well here, but this was about using up leftovers)

4-5 eggs

1/3 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup milk

4 shallots, sliced and lightly sauteed

Fresh herbs, roughly chopped (I used parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme)

1/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese (gruyere would be nice too)

Butter (to grease the pan and to saute the shallots)

Parmesan Cheese, Ground flax seed, fresh rosemary (for topping).

mixingthepudding

DIRECTIONS:

Mix the eggs, cream, milk, herbs and grated cheese in a bowl. Saute shallots for about 4 minutes, let cool then add to milk and egg mixture.  Place bread cubes in a larger bowl and pour egg and milk mixture to cover. Stir to coat all of the bread cubes. Butter a casserole dish and place bread into pan, gently press down. Cover and refrigerate overnight (or at least 4 hours). Check to ensure that all of the bread cubes get a good soak (think French toast), if some are too dry you can amend by beating an egg into a bit of milk and adding a couple of hours before baking. I like a topping, so while the oven was preheating to 350f I combined about 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese with 2 teaspoons ground flax seed and chopped rosemary and sprinkled over the top of the bread pudding. Bake, uncovered, for 50-60 minutes. Serve with cheese sauce, mixed greens, and if you like a piece of crisp bacon. Yummy comfort food.

Ready to cover and refrigerate.

Ready to cover and refrigerate.

Sprinkle topping before putting into a 350 oven for about 50-60 minutes.

Sprinkle topping before putting into a 350 oven for about 50-60 minutes.

Let it rest a bit before serving.

Let it rest a bit before serving.

Lots of Cheese Mac and Cheese

Very cheesy macaroni and cheese, so yummy.

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INGREDIENTS

Rotini pasta, or elbow macaroni (we used just over half a box)

3Tbsp Butter

3 Tbsp Flour

Finely chopped onion (low fat, but who are we kidding :))

1  1/2 cups milk

3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1/2 cup gouda, grated

1/4 cup machego, grated

1/4 parmesan, grated

1/8 cup blue cheese

1 tomato finely diced.

1/4 cup bread crumbs

DIRECTIONS:

 Cook pasta according to package directions, but about 2 minutes less than fully cooked.

Melt butter in a sauce pan, add chopped onion and saute until translucent, about three minutes. Add flour and cook to make a roux, butter should turn golden. Add milk and stir until the mixture thickens, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add cheeses a bit at a time to get a nice even melt.Mix cheese mixture with cooked pasta and chopped tomato. Gregory also adds jalepeno, so we always make two pans.  Place in a casserole and cover with bread crumbs and more parmesan cheese. If you have some ground flax you can mix some in here too, making this slightly less unhealthy.

Heat for about 20 minutes at 350 (you want the top to be crispy and a bit browned). Enjoy with tomato wedges.

Looks good enough to eat.

Rabbit Pie with Suet Crust, Pancetta and Leeks

A couple of weeks ago Gregory’s parents came to visit. Being of British descent, one of my father-in-laws favorite comfort foods is rabbit pie with suet crust, my mother in-law is not fond of rabbit, so we also made a chicken pie using the same basic recipe. Please note that this is NOT a low -fat meal, it is very very filling, lots of work, but could become a favorite. Since rabbit and chicken are both lean meats, and the pastry is only on the top this recipe can easily be modified to a low fat option by switching the crust and leaving out the bacon/pancetta and the cream.

Rabbit Pie with Suet Crust, Pancetta and Leeks

Rabbit Pie with Suet Crust, Pancetta and Leeks

Ingredients:

1 whole rabbit, jointed (your butcher will do this for you)

2-3 cups of chicken stock

2 carrots, cut into large chunks

2 stalks celery, cut in large pieces

3 cloves garlic, cut in half

bay leaf

fresh herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary and or thyme)

2 leeks, sliced thinly

2 1/3 inch pieces of pancetta finely chopped

Stock (reserved from above ingredients)

Cornstarch slurry (two spoons cornstarch to about an equal amount of coldwater. If you prefer a thicker sauce, add more cornstarch and adjust water accordingly). You must bring your fluid to a boil to get the thickening so that you know the consistency BEFORE you put it in your pie. You can also reserve some more stock and do the same to get gravy.

Heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Suet pastry

Instructions:

Brown the rabbit meat in a bit of olive oil.

Add chicken stock, carrots, celery, onions, bay leaf, and sprigs of herbs. If the rabbit is not fully covered, add some water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours, until meat comes off the bones easily.

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(This is the chicken, same recipe, just with chicken instead of rabbit)

Remove rabbit to a platter and let cool. Strain the stock and reserve to make the sauce. This can be done the night before (which is what I did with the rabbit, but not the chicken).

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Once rabbit meat has cooled, remove the bones. When you are ready to assemble your pie, reduce the stock to thicken, add cornstarch slurry and a bit of cream.

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Brown the bacon or pancetta bits until crispy, add the leeks and saute for about 3 minutes. Put the cooked rabbit meat into the creamy sauce and add the bacon and leeks.

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To help achieve a glossy, golden finish, brush pastry with milk before putting into the oven, this is the chicken pie (shallow pie dish, the rabbit was in a deeper dish and is in the photo of the finished product)

Fill in a deep pie dish or casserole. Cover with the suet pastry and bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes.

Enjoy with a green salad.

 

 

 

Baja-inspired fish tacos

A couple of years ago, Gregory (my spouse) and I went to a conference in San Diego. Before the trip I “googled” some food sites and selected a few restaurants and special dishes to try. Our fondness for Mexican and Mexican inspired food blossomed during that visit, but the one thing on the list that we did not get to try was San Diego’s famous fish tacos. My guy is not too fond of fish, but does like salmon, so I made two versions: one using salmon and one using red snapper. You can also use cod or talapia, probably just about any fresh white fish would work. The tacos are served with a variety of toppings, this recipe uses a variation of Mexican cole slaw and a lovely lime and cilantro cream topping.

BC red snapper, seasoned.

BC red snapper, seasoned.

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I have included links to the original recipe that inspired this dish. Make the lime-cilantro crema at least an hour ahead to give the flavor time to meld while sitting covered in the fridge.

Crema:

1/4 cup of light or olive oil mayonnaise

1/4 cup of sour cream or zero fat plain greek yoghurt

juice of half a lime

about 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

(a bit of green onion or garlic can go in too, I was a bit lazy)

pinch of salt

Mexican cole slaw (with a bit of a cheat)

Package of cole slaw veggies

juice of one lime

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

1 jalepeno, seeded and finely chopped (skip this if you don’t like spice, keep the seeds if you do)

Juice of one or two limes (about 2 tbsp)

1 tbsp agave syrup (you can use honey if you prefer, and I suggest using a bit and then tasting you want it a bit sweet)

2 tsp chopped fresh cilantro

pinch of salt

Fish:

Salmon, red snapper, talipia (or any nice solid white fish)

Olive or sunflower oil

A pinch each of cumin, ground coriander, ground chili powder, salt, black pepper mixed.

Brush stove top grill or bbq with some oil and brush a bit of oil on the fish fillets or slices. Coat the fish pieces with the dry spice mixture.

Cook for about 3-4 minutes until flesh is no longer translucent, turn and cook a few more minutes, you will want a bit of a char, but careful not to burn the fish (thinner fish will take less time, thicker fillets will take a bit longer)

Cut fish into bite size chunks or strips (your choice here, really)

Tortilla:

Follow instructions on masa or buy premade, we just used a grocery store brand and heated the crisp shells in the oven for five minutes.

If you prefer soft tacos, use the appropriate shells, but still be sure to heat them on the hot grill for about one minute on each side.

Assemble:

Place cooked, blackened fish pieces in taco shells. Add about 1/4 cup of the slaw and top with the sauce. As with any tacos, you can also add some queso fresco, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, chopped avocado, green onions…

Yummy.

 

Seven things to do with photographs.

Have a bit of a camera bug? With all of the digital cameras, photo-retouching software programs, and quality printers, there are lots of ways that you can use photographs. Here are seven ideas:

1. Print in black and white and place in simple frames, you can create very arty looking images this way.

2. Play around with other effects (sepia for example) using software such as Inkscape (a free, open-source program that is easy to use)

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Photo transformed to sepia effect using Inkscape.

Photo transformed to sepia effect using Inkscape.

 

3. Create decoupage. All you need is a smooth object (bowl, small piece of wood, a plate etc), some white glue or mod podge, a sponge or paint brush, and a damp cloth. Paint a thin coat of glue and smooth the photo over the object. Once it is dry, cover with decoupage medium, such as mod podge and voila your own crafty item featuring your favorite picture.

4. Create a collage (similar process, but images are arranged in a design)

5. Print on canvas and frame.

6. Create your own “movie” for home or youtube. I have linked to my first effort, a youtube “movie” of our front yard.

7. Frame as they are.

You can purchase frames, take mini-classes to up your photography skills, and find interesting papers to use in collages and decoupage on-line. (affiliate link, I do earn a commission if you choose to take a class or buy supplies or patterns here, and there are some lovely ideas for decoupage projects, as well as online classes)

And of course, share the pictures and pictures of your art on your blog!