Thursday, July 26, 2012

FruitiePatootie Tarts

Such a long time coming!

I've been on hiatus since getting cable TV and a PVR last fall.  After 4 years of reading a book every 2 days while listening to rock 'n roll, I finally relented before yet another long winter set in - and the first thing I watched was:  5 hours straight on Food Network!  It was glorious - my old favourite, Iron Chef, is still along with a few new versions, plus some wonderful new shows like Chopped and Jamie Oliver's Meals in Minutes.  I recorded all of the latter show, and tried my hand at re-creating these feasts for 1 or 2 servings rather than 4 (my versions of his Piripiri Chicken and Chicken Mushroom Pie will follow).

For the moment, though, I offer you the following:  FruitiePatootie Tarts.
A great way to utilize some lovely fresh seasonal fruit, all this simple method requires is 3-4 tart shells and a small handful of any kind of fruit.

FruitiePatootie Tarts:

1/2 cup chopped pitted cherries (or blueberries, apples, peaches, assorted and/or mixed berries, plums, nectarines, or a combination of any of them.

1 1/2 - 2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp cornstarch (use 1 1/2 tsp for blueberries)

3-4 frozen tart shells

1/2 prepared single shell pie crust (optional)

Combine first 3 ingredients then pack into tart shells.
Cover with lattice tops if desired (if doing so, brush lightly with cream & sprinkle with sugar before baking).

Bake on baking sheet for 30-35 minutes at 375 F.

Cool on rack for 1 hour.

(A lovely topping for tart without lattice tops is to put 1 tbsp of Marshmallow Creme on top of each tart, flatten slightly, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  The Marshmallow Creme will settle while the tart cools).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cheese Log

This Cheese Log is a Christmas Brunch tradition in my family.  It's quick and easy to make, and quite toteable.

I make it rolled in crushed pretzels instead of nuts, which is great for those who are allergic to nuts.

Holiday Cheese Log (makes 4 medium-sized logs):

2 x 8oz blocks of cream cheese (lite or regular)
4 cups grated cheddar (2 cups sharp white & 2 cups orange)
the juice of 1/3 medium onion, grated
1/3 cup sour cream
Dijon or honey mustard to taste (1-3 tbsp)
Worcestershire sauce to taste (3-7 drops)
Salt & pepper to taste (I use ground mixed peppercorns)
1 oz Brandy or Bourbon
Coarsely crushed pretzels

In a food processor, whiz up the cream cheese and grate in the cheddar, or mix all by hand in a large bowl.  Add the onion juice and sour cream, then season to taste with the next 4 ingredients.  Add the Brandy or Bourbon and combine.

Let sit, covered in the fridge, for at least 2 hours or overnight to combine flavours.

Divide into 4 portions; roll into log shapes and then roll in the crushed pretzels to cover.  Wrap and refrigerate till needed.

These will keep in the fridge for several days, which is perfect to take visiting over the holidays.  You can also make some of it into a cheese ball instead of a log, plus you can also make it up into little balls and freeze them; they defrost quite quickly this way (on counter for 1/2 hour), which is great for just one person.

Alternate recipe:

Use 3 cups sharp white cheddar, then mix everything up.  Divide the mixture in two, then add 1/2 cup orange cheddar to one half of the mixture, and add 300 g of blue cheese to the other half, and make 2 orange logs and 2 blue cheese logs.  Roll the blue cheese logs in parsley to differentiate them.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mulled Wine for 1 - Oliver style

I love mulled wine, but how can one person enjoy this holiday fare without wasting most of the bottle?

The answer:

Jamie Oliver's recipe for Mulled Wine  involves making a spice-infused wine syrup then adding the wine to it just before lightly warming it.

His recipe (you can just Google it) is for 2 bottles; simply divide the amount in half for one bottle, make the syrup, and add just enough of it to one glass of wine at a time, then warm the wine gently so as not to evaporate the alcohol. 

Brilliant!  Now I can come home, take my boots off, put up my feet, and enjoy a hot wine toddy without wasting a drop of wine!

Mini Crab Cakes

The week before Christmas I like to prepare & freeze several appetizers to take to my family's get-togethers.  This recipe is one of my favourites:

Mini Crab Cakes: - appetizer

Bake: 400 – 15-20 oiled steel baking pan
or fry in lightly oiled pan, turning once, for 8-10 minutes

Makes 16 mini crab cakes

½ lb crabmeat (or 2 x 120g tins – rinse then squeeze the moisture out first)
1/3 cup breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs for cakes, plus
1/3 cup half-panko, half-breadcrumbs for breading
1 egg
2 tbsp mayonnaise
3 minced green onions
¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp all purpose seasoning or seafood seasoning
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp mustard powder (or 1 tsp Dijon, ½ tsp hot mustard or 1 tsp horseradish)
¼ tsp salt  & ¼ tsp pepper or Spanish paprika
1 tbsp minced orange pepper

Beat egg, add mayo & Worcestershire sauce.
Add crumbs, mustard powder, baking powder, onion & pepper, seasonings & crabmeat.
Shape into mini-patties, coat w/crumbs.
Cook & serve.  (you can also freeze then cook later - just add a little bit more cooking time)

Vodka Raisin Remedy

This is touted as an ancient arthritis remedy from middle Europe.

There are many versions of this out there, but all I can find lately are ones that recommend soaking the raisins then discarding the vodka and eating the raisins.  The version I have always used involves soaking the raisins then straining them out, drinking the vodka (not all at once!) and nibbling on the raisins.

Whether it works for you or not, it is fun to do and fun to try, and helps keep you warm at night:

Vodka Raisin Arthritis Remedy:

8-oz canning jar
golden raisins


Half-fill the jar with raisins; add 2 tsp sugar or warmed honey, then fill up with vodka almost to the top of the jar.  Top with screw-on lid, invert & shake gently, then store in cool place, repeating the inverting & shaking twice daily for 3 days.  On the 3rd day, strain the vodka-soaked raisins to store separately; return the raisin-infused vodka to the jar, cover, and store both in the fridge.

Take 1-2 tablespoons in the evening along with a few raisins; repeat throughout the following several evenings. It was originally recommended to take this 3 times a day, which is good if you don't have to work!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cream of Tomato Soup with Spinach & Rice

I've just come up with this tonite - it's perfect for a crisp October evening!

My goal was to approximate the brand-name version but without the additives, and this hits the spot - simply delicious, comforting and satisfying.

This recipe makes enough to save/freeze 3 extra bowls of soup.

Webster's Cream of Tomato Soup with Spinach & Rice

Makes 4 generous bowls (8 cups)

1 1/2 tbsp plus 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced
8-10 baby carrots, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup flour
1 x 900 ml carton chicken broth
1 x 796 ml (28-oz) can diced plum tomatoes, drained
1 x 398 ml (14-oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp sugar or honey, divided (2nd portion to taste)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup torn baby spinach, stems removed
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup hot half-and-half cream
1/2 cup cooked rice

In a Dutch Oven or soup pot, warm the first 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil then add the onions, carrots & celery.  Saute on medium, stirring regularly, for 3-5 minutes, then reduce the heat, cover, and sweat the vegetables for 8-10 more minutes, stirring often.

Add the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil, warm it up, then sprinkle the flour over the top; stir in immediately, and continue stirring & cooking it for 3-5 minutes, until beginning to become slightly golden.

Pour the broth into the pot, then add the diced tomatoes & crushed tomatoes, stirring well to incorporate.

Season with the first amount of sugar & the pepper, bring gently to the boil, then reduce and simmer on low for 40 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.

Strain the soup, first through a coarse sieve, pressing to extract the liquid and allow some of the tomato pulp to go through, and *discarding the remaining solids.  Strain through a finer sieve to remove the seeds (this whole process actually takes very little time).

Return to a clean pot, and add the salt, spinach and rice.  At this point you can add the remaining sugar or honey to taste.

Warm up the soup gently to wilt the spinach, while heating up the half-and-half in a small pot (and not allowing to boil).

When the spinach is wilted, stir in the half-and-half.

That's it!  Wonderful with baking powder biscuits, Grilled Cheese Sandwich, or thickly sliced French Bread.

(*or save the remaining solids in the freezer to incorporate into a thrifty side dish, gratin or sauce.)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I'm Baaack!

Hi, Solitary Diners!

After a 2-month hiatus, I’m Baaack and raring to go!

During the summer, rather than totally wilting out trying out recipes in my overly hot apartment, I spent a lot of time outside with family & friends, and when home relied on old standbys, including many versions of one of my favourite default dinners: the Tortilla Bowl Salad (see June 5, 2011 post)

At the moment, my favourite is the BLT Tortilla Salad Bowl.  The combination of flavours and textures is so much fun to eat and quite more-ish.  Layers of salad, bacon & cheese are topped with a creamy lite ranch dressing with a hint of dill - a perfect counterpart to the dish. 

Directions are as follows: 

BLT Tortilla Salad Bowl

1 baked tortilla salad bowl (June 5/11 posting)
3 strips of bacon, cooked till crisp then drained and crumbled
2 cups torn crisp lettuce
1 finely diced celery stalk
1 finely diced Roma tomato (seeded)

Dilly Ranch Dressing (recipe below)

Grated cheese – 1/3 cup

Put the lettuce in the tortilla bowl, then strew the celery & tomatoes over top.
Then layer as follows:
1/3 bacon –
all the cheese –
1/3 bacon –
dressing –
1/3 bacon

And of course drizzle more dressing over the salad as needed.

Dilly Ranch Dressing:

1 tbsp lite mayonnaise
3 tbsp lite sour cream
1 tbsp yogurt
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp honey
dash of black pepper
pinch of dried dill
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1/2 medium Dill pickle, grated

Combine all ingredients and let stand, covered for at least 1/2 hour to develop the flavours.

Cooking Ahead: 

Now that fall is here I’m trying out new recipes, enjoying my favourite stand-bys, and switching up my default dinners.

One of the most successful things I’ve done for myself lately was to cook three 3-4 serving meals in a row and freeze them in individual serving portions to enjoy later and give myself more time to pursue my other interests of sewing and beadwork.  Otherwise, when one comes home after work there’s little useable awake-time left after preparing a meal, dining, then cleaning up.  This way, one can throw dinner in the oven or microwave and get right to the project at hand.

I made:  Chicken Tikka one night (2 half-breasts made 3 meals);
              Hungarian Goulash the 2nd night (1 tenderloin made 3 meals);
              Chicken Cacciatore the 3rd night (2 half-breasts made 3 meals);

Next I made Brown Rice Pilaf & froze it up into 1-cup logs;

Then I made pulled pork and froze it into ½ cup logs (1 small pork shoulder roast made enough for countless meals), for burritos, pulled-pork sandwiches, or Brunswick Stew).

Within 3 days I had 2 weeks' worth of weekday meals with some extra lunches as well!  Talk about doing yourself a favour - if you can manage something like this every few weeks, you will be able to rely less on outside meals and will be looking forward to the "menu" of meals in your freezer.

The recipes will follow in subsequent postings.  Pictures are pending.