Slapdash Souvlaki

May was an INTENSE month here at the Ali Does It household. LongJohn went to daycare a month earlier than scheduled and I had a whole four weeks to get all the stuff done on the house I hadn’t had an opportunity to do when we moved in … because of the whole having-a-baby thing. Some of those projects are still in progress but I have SO MUCH to show you when they’re ready to be shown. If May was intense, then June is even more so. I went back to work full time AT A NEW JOB. And on my first day, I had HAND surgery. Today I’m having hand surgery on the OTHER hand. So things are a little nuts, to say the least. Luckily I have a bit of a backlog of posts for you guys. Let’s start with this one for the barbecue, now that we’re officially into grilling season.

Slapdash Souvlaki 26

The Pie is a huge fan of souvlaki. We’re fortunate that some of the best souvlaki in town is only a short drive away. But it’s actually pretty easy to make your own souvlaki at home, provided you have some time to prep. Here’s how you can do it.

Slapdash Souvlaki 1

First, let’s start with that most essential of condiments: tzatziki. You can always buy this but it’s easy to make as well. I rarely measure my amounts because I find they vary depending on my mood but here’s an approximation for you. Start off by grabbing about 1/2 cup plain yogurt and plopping it in a few layers of cheesecloth in a colander. Wrap it well and put something with a bit of weight on top. Place the colander over a bowl and shove it in the fridge for a few hours. I use Balkan style yogurt for this, but if you have Greek yogurt you can skip this step.

Slapdash Souvlaki 2

After your yogurt has been pressed and some of the water has drained out, you can unwrap it and give the cheesecloth a bit of a rinse. You’re going to need it in a second.

Slapdash Souvlaki 15

Grate up about half a cucumber. Plop the cucumber bits onto the cheesecloth, wrap it up, and give it a good squeeze over the sink and get rid of excess water.

Slapdash Souvlaki 17

Slapdash Souvlaki 18

Now, tip that into a bowl together with the yogurt, some minced garlic, chopped fresh dill, salt, pepper, a few drops of lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Slapdash Souvlaki 19

Stir, stir, stir! Shove that back in the fridge for a few hours (preferably overnight) to let the flavours mingle.

Slapdash Souvlaki 20

For the souvlaki we’re going to create a marinade. Start by finely chopping up a small red onion. I’m being smart here and using a large red onion because I’m making the recipe twice and chucking half of it in the freezer.

Slapdash Souvlaki 4

Throw the onion bits in a large Ziploc freezer bag and tip in about 1/2 cup olive oil,

Slapdash Souvlaki 5

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar,

Slapdash Souvlaki 6

and 4 tablespoons lemon juice.

Slapdash Souvlaki 8

Next plop in about 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 teaspoons dried (or fresh) oregano, and of course salt and pepper to taste.

Slapdash Souvlaki 9

Wrangle yourself a decent-sized pork tenderloin (you can do this with chicken breast too). Don’t be tempted to use a pork shoulder or any other cut for this, as they’ll be too gristly when cubed. Trust me. I did it once when they were on sale and I regretted it. Pull the tough membrane off the tenderloin and trim any excess fat.

Slapdash Souvlaki 10

Cut it into cubes.

Slapdash Souvlaki 11

Chuck those cubes into your freezer bag.

Slapdash Souvlaki 12

Seal the bag carefully, give it a good smushing together, and bung it in the fridge for several hours. While you’re waiting, grab some wooden skewers and plop them in a tray of water to soak for at least thirty minutes before you grill.

Slapdash Souvlaki 13

When you’re set to start, shove the cubes of marinated meat onto your skewers (I like to use two skewers per so that they’re easier to flip) and grill until cooked through and at an internal temperature of about 145°F.

Slapdash Souvlaki 23

Slapdash Souvlaki 24

Serve over rice with a hefty side of your fresh tzatziki and enjoy the summer!

Slapdash Souvlaki 25

Creole Okra with Chicken and Tomatoes

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 23

I don’t really know that much about southern food except that I like it a lot, and whenever I’m down south (I’m talking the southern US states here) I eat as much of it as I can. This dish started because I found okra at a good price at the grocery store and is more Creole-inspired than actually authentic (because again I don’t know much). It is adapted from something I found on The Kitchn. I doubled the amounts, prepared half this recipe in the pan and then chucked half of it in the freezer for later, like the clever person that I am†. Not that this recipe isn’t dead simple. I’m just lazy.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 1

I accompanied this one-dish meal with another dish: steamed beet greens.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 4

Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Zest 1 lemon.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 3

Gather your spices. Creole spice blends tend to run to mixtures of the following, so make one to suit your own taste (this one is about 1 teaspoon of each): onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, parsley, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne. The recipe I was looking at didn’t use creole spices; instead it called for a bit of cumin and coriander. So I just used everything. Set that aside for a few minutes.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 2

Start with your okra, about 1lb, and slice the tops off before cutting it in half lengthwise. Apparently people either love or hate okra, because it’s a bit slimy. I am ambivalent so far.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 5

Lay that on your baking sheet and sprinkle with about 1 cup (canned/drained/rinsed) black-eyed peas.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 7

Next, slice up a small white onion.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 8

Sprinkle that onto the pan, together with a few cloves crushed or minced garlic.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 11

Give that a good drizzle with some nice olive oil.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 12

Now here’s where I kind of diverged from the recipe. This dish is a good meal all in itself as a vegetarian option, but I feed boys (boys who are not vegetarians) so I had to chuck some meat in here somehow. In a large bowl, I threw 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs together with a 14oz can of diced tomatoes and your lemon zest.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 14

Then I chucked in all those lovely spices and gave it a good mixing.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 16

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 17

Spread the chicken and tomatoes evenly across the top of your peas and okra and shove it in the oven for about an hour. Give it a stir once or twice to make sure everything is browning evenly.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 18

We served ours over rice with the beet greens and it was pretty good. The Pie thought the okra was a little slimy (#1 reason why many people dislike it) but I thought it was pretty good!

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 20

If you plan to freeze this recipe for later, I would recommend freezing it in two parts: in one bag goes the okra, peas, garlic, rice, and oil, and in the second bag goes the tomatoes, chicken, and spices. It just seems like a logical thing to do to tenderize the meat and prevent the peas and okra from getting too soggy.

Meals en Masse: Honey Chicken with Quinoa

Honey Chicken 13

Here’s another quick-to-make slow-cooking easy-to-freeze recipe that is highly satisfying and adaptable (which I adapted, of course, from i heart naptime). You can use fresh or frozen chicken breasts in the recipe, which means that even if you didn’t plan ahead you’re still going to be just fine.

Honey Chicken 1

Take 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (mine are frozen) and plop them in the bottom of a slow cooker pot turned to low.

Honey Chicken 3

Chop up 1 sweet onion into bite-sized pieces (the original recipe calls for onion powder but I think real onions are better).

Honey Chicken 4

In a bowl, dollop 1 tablespoon olive oil, the equivalent of 2-3 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and a bunch of ground pepper, as much as you like.

Honey Chicken 5

Add to that as well 1/2 cup soy sauce and 3/4 cup honey and give it a good stirring.

Honey Chicken 6

Pour the sauce over your chicken and cook for 4-6 hours on low.

Honey Chicken 7

And if you happened to have additional chicken breasts, you can chuck those in a freezer bag with more onions and more sauce (I made the recipe in triplicate) and chuck those in the freezer for later.

Honey Chicken 8
I realized just now that I wrote “April ’17” on these bags. I hope future me isn’t too sleep-deprived to think that they were made by an even more future-me.

The chicken is done when it falls apart on you.

Honey Chicken 9

I decided to go whole hog and shredded it with a fork to expose all the chickeny bits to the sauce.

Honey Chicken 10

I served it on top of a quinoa-bulgur blend that I cooked with just a little bit of lemon juice added to the water, a little bit of extra sauce, and garnished the whole thing with a pinch or two of white sesame seeds.

Honey Chicken 12

Wingin’ It Wednesday: Just a Pinch

Happy birthday to Grenadier, the star of Ali Does It and the furry love of my life. He’s FIVE today!

View this post on Instagram

Tired snow dolphin. #corgisofinstagram #corgistagram

A post shared by Alison Bell (@alidoesit.herself) on

For a very long time, I’ve had a certain fascination with the giant and colossal squid. Next to polar bears, they’re my favourite animal. I’m not sure why mega-predators of the Arctic and sub-Arctic are my thing, but that’s just who I am I guess. Knowing this, friends and family members often purchase me trinkets related to my love of those horrible tentacled things; however, because squid are WAY less cute and cuddly than other sea creatures, they’re hard to find. So more often than not, I end up with octopus-related items. Don’t get me wrong: the octopus is a great and noble creature. But it ain’t no squid. And I have a large amount of octopus-related paraphernalia these days. So NOW people think that I have a love for the octopus. So I get MORE. It’s a good thing that the octopus is still pretty cool. And that I have a decent collection of other marine-related fauna. Anyway. I got these for Christmas. Aren’t they adorable?

DSCN8859

The issue is that we prefer our pepper and salt to be freshly ground, so we have these overly expensive grinders that we adore.

DSCN8858

But those are too cute to put away, so what can I do? Why not put in some other spices that I should use more of in my daily seasonings? It’s a good alternative to salt, if you’re one of those people who uses a bit more than you should. Just give your favourite herb/spice combo a good whaz in your grinder to make sure it doesn’t clog up the holes in the shaker.

DSCN8860

I used a funnel to pour in my newly ground spice – just a small amount so it doesn’t go stale.

DSCN8861

And now it’s ready to add some extra zest to my life!

DSCN8862

How to Quickly Carve a Turkey

When the Pie and I would fly home from St. John’s to Ottawa at Christmas, we would generally fly Westjet, because they were very nice to Gren and had the longest window where you could fly a pet at this time of the year. They also offer, as in-flight entertainment, Canadian basic cable. Which includes the Food Network and HGTV. So the Pie and I, since we haven’t had cable in our home for years, would often binge-watch food and home shows the whole flight. And this is how we learned, from Alton Brown, Jamie Oliver, and Gordon Ramsay, how to carve a turkey – quickly and efficiently.

Nobody wants to sit waiting for a special meal and have some dude at the head of the table flash around some knives before doing a hackjob on the bird you just spent the past afternoon slaving over, am I right? Best to carve it yourself when you’re ready, lay it out on whatever pretty dish you like and present it along with the rest of your dishes, which are still hot. Now if you’ll remember our tip from the last time we cooked a turkey at Ali Does It, we time it so the bird is ready an hour or two ahead of time, and spends those remaining hours wrapped snuggly under layers of aluminum foil and towels, staying warm and getting juicy.

Carving a Turkey 1

Here it is, unwrapped and ready to carve (this one’s a wee one that we cooked up for our potluck). Make sure your carving knife is lovely and sharp for this. I tend to forego the carving set altogether and use one of my stupid sharp knives and my bare hands.

Carving a Turkey 2

Start right away by making a cut right along the breastbone of the turkey and following it down the curve of the bone to sever both breasts. It seems very dramatic but it’s effective and easy.

Carving a Turkey 5

You may need to undercut the breasts to get them cleanly off.

Carving a Turkey 6

Then you can slice them crosswise for thick, juicy pieces that nobody has to fight over. And your whole turkey is now lighter and easier to move around as you get the rest of it.

Carving a Turkey 8

Next, go for the legs, and pop those suckers off. If they’re sizeable, slice off that gorgeous dark meat and set the bones aside.

Carving a Turkey 14
Do the same for the wings. Use your knife to sever the tendons at the joints.

Carving a Turkey 12

Then flip it over and get all that lovely juicy under-meat on the back. There’s more there than you think, and if you’re a fan of dark meat then this is where to find it.

Carving a Turkey 15

Now you have this carcass, already stripped and ready for the stock pot (if you’re going to make soup afterwards, which you really should).

Carving a Turkey 16

And then you can arrange your meat however you like in your serving dish  (this is an electric skillet to keep them warm in transit – your arrangement will be prettier).

Carving a Turkey 17

Wasn’t that easy?

Fast-Tip Friday: Drying Herbs

DRYING HERBS 3

If you’re lucky, you still have time to run out and grab the rest of your late-summer herbs from the garden and do something with them before it’s too late. If you’re me, then while you were out of the country for work the temperatures dropped below zero and now all your basil is a disgusting black mess.

DRYING HERBS 4

HOWEVER, there’s still hope for a good number of your other hardier herbs.

DSCN7485

Since the summer, I’ve been hauling baskets of herbs inside to process. Some end up in butter (because mmmm, butter), and some, like the lemongrass stalks you see in this basket, go in the freezer. But most of them, I dry. It takes almost zero effort on my part and then the herbs are there for me to mix and package as gifts: spice rubs and herbal teas are quick and easy to make.

DSCN8317

What makes it easiest is this handy-dandy herb dryer that I picked up from Lee Valley. Hang it somewhere out of the way with good air circulation (for us, that’s over the side of our main staircase), and then just shove it full of fresh herbs.

DRYING HERBS 6

The mesh will allow air to circulate on all sides, meaning nothing gets mouldy or soggy, and some of your herbs, like lemon balm, will dry in a matter of days. And you didn’t have to do ANYTHING!

DRYING HERBS 7

Added bonus: for the few days it takes these herbs to start to dry up, the hallway smells like pizza or lemons or whatever we’ve got in the shelves.

DRYING HERBS 8

One Dish Chicken, Tomatoes, and Rice

One Dish Chicken Rice Tomato 17

I’m trying to eat more rice these days, and it’s been easy so far with delicious and simple dishes like this one. I then froze a chunk of this and it was oh-so-good, even leftover!

One Dish Chicken Rice Tomato 20

I had picked up some pre-seasoned chicken thighs from Farm Boy a while back and that was my base of things to go with. You can use unseasoned skinless chicken thighs, if you want: this is just what I had. I also had a litre of chicken broth, a 14oz can diced tomatoes, a 244g package of wild rice, a large sweet onion, and some pearl barley.

One Dish Chicken Rice Tomato 1
Photography tip: never photograph food in the full harsh light of the afternoon sun.

 

I also grabbed a healthy handful of pre-mixed Italian seasoning. While I was grabbing these things I preheated my oven to 350°F.

One Dish Chicken Rice Tomato 8
Clearly I am not very good at photography.

 

So I cut the onion in half and because it was so huge I only diced up half of it.

One Dish Chicken Rice Tomato 2
Or in following my own instructions.

 

One Dish Chicken Rice Tomato 3
More’s the pity.

 

On to my grains.

One Dish Chicken Rice Tomato 4

I wanted about two cups of the grains so that I could use all 4 cups of my chicken broth.

One Dish Chicken Rice Tomato 5

There was some math that needed to be done – I only hoped the juice from the tomatoes didn’t make things mushy.

One Dish Chicken Rice Tomato 9

So first I softened the onions in my big skillet with some butter and olive oil.

One Dish Chicken Rice Tomato 10

Then I tipped in the tomatoes and the broth.

One Dish Chicken Rice Tomato 11

Then the uncooked grains.

One Dish Chicken Rice Tomato 12

I added a tablespoon or two of the Italian seasoning. Then I gave it a good stir.

One Dish Chicken Rice Tomato 13

Then I slid in the chicken thighs so they were as on the top as possible. I could definitely have doubled the amount of chicken I used, considering how much leftover rice I had.

One Dish Chicken Rice Tomato 14

Then I hucked the whole thing in the oven for about an hour. You don’t even need to stir it.

One Dish Chicken Rice Tomato 16

And then this gorgeousness was born. Holy moly is it good!

One Dish Chicken Rice Tomato 19

Oh, Crumbs!

It’s one of my resolutions this year to try to get every last ounce of goodness that I can out of the food that I buy, and that means trying not to waste one iota of it if I can help it. Carrots looking a little flaccid? Toss ’em in a soup! Apples a little bruised? Make some applesauce! Bread gone stale? Time for some custom croutons and bread crumbs!

Crumbs! 1

So you take your stale bread and you cut it up into smaller pieces. This is easy or hard depending on how stale your bread is.

Crumbs! 2

Chuck it in your food processor.

Crumbs! 3

Add some fresh woody herbs like thyme or rosemary. Dried ones are good too.

Crumbs! 4

Salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Crumbs! 5

Give it a good whaz for a little bit.

Crumbs! 6

Look at those lovely crumbs!

Crumbs! 7

I sealed mine in a plastic bag and tossed them into the freezer for a lovely Jamie Oliver dish I have my eye on but haven’t gotten around to yet – stay tuned!

Crumbs! 8

Pureed Pucks of Roasted Garlic

Garlic Pucks 8

I was at the grocery store recently and I found a huge bag of garlic, 18 heads of it in total, for a whopping $2.49! I quickly nabbed a bag and surreptitiously shoved it through the scanner at the cash in the hopes that it wasn’t a pricing error. So now I had 18 heads of garlic to deal with. I of course roasted them all. If you’ve never done it, check out my instructions here. Now, roasting 18 heads of garlic means that your eyes are watering and you will never get the smell of roasted garlic out of the house, but it’s a worthy sacrifice.

Garlic Pucks 2

I let it cool and then carefully popped each gloriously caramelized clove of sweet roasted garlicky goodness out of the head and into my food processor. I saved one head for a soup I was making, but there are 17 heads in there.

Garlic Pucks 4

Then I gave it a whaz. Hello, gorgeous.

Garlic Pucks 5

Then I sprayed a mini muffin tin with olive oil and shoved my new garlic paste into the cups. There are only twelve cups in this tin so it’s like concentrated garlic goodness: each one contains almost one and a half heads of roasted garlic.

Garlic Pucks 6

Pop that in the freezer overnight, then store the frozen lovely pucks in an airtight bag in the freezer and use as needed in soups and sauces and whatever else you want. When it comes to roasted garlic, the sky is the limit.

Garlic Pucks 7

Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing

I whipped up this pot of savoury delightfulness for our Canadian Thanksgiving in October, and I figured with Thanksgiving coming up this Thursday in America, you might find it handy. This particular incarnation of this recipe is both gluten-free and pork-free to reflect the dietary restraints of my Thanksgiving dinner guests, but feel free to replace the gluten-free cornbread with regular cornbread (may I suggest this recipe?) and the turkey bacon with regular bacon or sausage.

GF Cornbread Stuffing 5

Start with your cornbread. Because I was running low on time and energy (getting sick the week before Thanksgiving is not cool), I made the cornbread from the Bob’s Red Mill mix, and it turned out just fine.

GF Cornbread Stuffing 1

GF Cornbread Stuffing 3

I crumbled the cooled cornbread onto a baking sheet and toasted it at 350°F for about 15 minutes until it was a nice golden brown.

GF Cornbread Stuffing 11

Once it cooled I sealed it in a bag.

GF Cornbread Stuffing 13

Meanwhile, I dumped an entire package of turkey bacon in a pan and fried it up.

GF Cornbread Stuffing 6

Then I started chopping. In a large pot, I dumped about 1/3 cup butter, then chopped up 1 1/2 large onions, 4 green onions, and a whole head of fresh garlic and plopped those in as well. I heated it on medium and stirred the onions while they softened.

GF Cornbread Stuffing 7

Then I chopped up 1 bunch fresh tarragon and 1 bunch fresh sage and dumped those in.

GF Cornbread Stuffing 8

Then 2 red peppers and 4 stalks celery. I added in some pepper to taste.

GF Cornbread Stuffing 9

Then I chopped up the turkey bacon and hucked that in as well.

GF Cornbread Stuffing 10

Because I was making the stuffing the day before, I put the vegetables in a bowl to cool and then covered them and put them in the fridge overnight.

GF Cornbread Stuffing 12

On the day of, put everything together. In a bowl, whisk together about 3 large eggs and some salt and pepper.

GF Cornbread Stuffing 14

Add to that about 1 litre (~4 cups) low sodium chicken or turkey broth. Give that a good stir.

GF Cornbread Stuffing 15

Dump your cornbread and your vegetable mix into a large baking dish or your slow cooker pot and stir them around. Pour the eggy broth over top and give it another stir to make sure it’s made it all the way through.

GF Cornbread Stuffing 16

So if you have space in your oven the day of, feel free to bake this (at about 350°F for an hour or so) to make sure that it’s all nice and crusty around the edges. If not, then pop it in the slow cooker in the morning and cook it on medium until you’re ready to eat. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s incredibly tasty.

GF Cornbread Stuffing 17

GF Cornbread Stuffing 18