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!

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Tired snow dolphin. #corgisofinstagram #corgistagram

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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?

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

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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.

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

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

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Fast-Tip Friday: Drying Herbs

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Pureed Pucks of Roasted Garlic

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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.

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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.

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Then I gave it a whaz. Hello, gorgeous.

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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.

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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.

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Purple Rice and Beef-ish Stew

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I know what you’re thinking: holy moly this woman makes a lot of beef stew. You don’t know the half of it. But each one is different, because I make them up as I go along. So I hope in posting as many of them as occur to me to photograph, you can draw some inspiration for flavour combinations!

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It started with this package of frozen stewing meat I inherited from Atlas’ freezer. It likely came from her parents’ organic hobby farm in BC, or from one of the people with whom her dad has a trade deal. And, given the nature of some of the other things I’ve inherited from Atlas, it could very well be goat, and not beef. In fact it’s probably goat. So I tried to adjust the spices such that it would work for goat, or beef. But what do I know.

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I grabbed my big stock pot and chopped up an onion, which I chucked in the pot with some butter and olive oil and sautéed until it was soft and smelled amazing.

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Then I pitched in the beef/goat/mystery meat, together with some salt and pepper, and cooked that until it was browned on all the edges.

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While that was going on I prepped everything else. Seeing as I had some on hand from my recent Krupnikas-fest, I decided to grate some fresh turmeric into the mix, to give the broth a nice earth-flavour. If you like the earth flavour, then you could probably add some fresh beets to the stew. They’ll definitely give the stew some colour.

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In fact, the turmeric would, under normal circumstances, have dyed my stew a lovely yellow colour, save that I’m putting purple rice in it, and purple rice dyes everything, too. The turmeric did, however, dye my fingers yellow.

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And some of the counter. I miss our all-black counter from Elizabeth.

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Fact, though: if you spray bleach on a turmeric stain, like this one:

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It will turn from yellow to orange, and then just wipe away.

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I added some freshly grated ginger to the pile as well, because I had a whole bunch of it in the fridge.

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Then I chopped up a medium-sized rutabaga. While not as absorbent as potatoes in stew, rutabagas and turnips hold their shape well while also providing some of the mushiness you expect from other root vegetables and tubers.

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And a giant (GIANT) carrot.

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And some cauliflower.

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And my purple rice. It’s kind of obscene how purple it makes everything else, but I love it.

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And a head of roasted garlic. Because everything is better with garlic. I popped the cloves out and roughly chopped them.

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I chucked all that in the pot, together with some concentrated vegetable and beef broth and a whole lot of water. Remember when you’re putting uncooked rice or pasta into a soup or stew to add extra water as it will be absorbed.

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I also sprinkled in some ground cumin and yellow curry powder.

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Bring that whole thing to simmer for about an hour, until the meat is cooked through and the vegetables are squishable with a spoon.

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Serve hot (because it’s a stew, silly). Sooooo satisfying and purple!

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When in doubt, make soup!

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My parents are down in Florida and I’m looking after the house while they’re gone. This entailed cleaning out the fridge after they left, and so I arrived home with this oddment of groceries: 1 small zucchini, 4 wilted green onions, 2 baby bok choi, 9 multicoloured carrots, half a large sweet onion, half a large rutabaga, and half a large Savoy cabbage.

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Welp, that looks like a soup to me. Fortunately I had some stewing beef in the freezer which I chucked in the sink to defrost. Then I got to chopping.

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I also chopped up 1 head of garlic, and sautéed it with the onions in a large stockpot with a drop of olive oil until they were soft and sweet.

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Remember when cutting up rutabagas to be very careful. Slice off the top and bottom first so you have a flat surface to work on before you go after the skin, as it will be tough, especially if it’s been waxed.

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I added all the other chopped veg to the pot. I only scrubbed the carrots, didn’t peel them. All that vitamin-y goodness is in the skin and these are such tender carrots it seemed like a waste to remove the skin.

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Make sure to dry your beef before you brown it. It will make browning way quicker.

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I also like to dredge it in flour for a nice crust, and the flour will help thicken the stew as it cooks. You can use rice flour for a gluten-free option.

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Brown the meat until it has a nice seared edge all the way around.

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Then you can chuck that in the pot, too. I added about 8 cups water and two mini cups of concentrated beef bouillon, but go with whatever floats your boat.

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Give it a stir and set it to simmer for about 30-45 minutes, until the rutabagas are soft when you smush them with a spoon.

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I added in a pinch of ground nutmeg and cloves, as well as a few teaspoons of dried oregano. Add salt and pepper as well, if you like.

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To combat the bitterness of the cabbage I also added in a few tablespoons each of maple syrup and rice vinegar (it sounds weird, I know, but it works). You can also use cider vinegar.

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My scrumptious savoury stew!

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I shoved it into large freezer bags that I froze flat for easy storage. I can’t wait to haul one of these babies out in the dead of winter for some comfort food!

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Wingin’ It Wednesday: Chicken Soup with Rice

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This is a “quick” soup in that I didn’t spend all day simmering it on the stove, but it still took a little bit of time, as all good soups do. I was cleaning out the freezer when I found a bag of 5 chicken drumsticks that needed something done to them, so I dragged them out, defrosted them, and dusted them with salt and pepper in a baking dish.

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I roasted them at 350°F for about 40 minutes.

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Make sure that the juices are running clear and the flesh is cooked all the way through. Soup that gives you salmonella is not good soup.

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I let them cool, then pulled all the meat off the bones and set the meat aside in a bowl for a while.

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I took all the skin and bones and chucked them into a large pot with some concentrated chicken broth and about 8 cups water and I let that simmer for about an hour.

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Then I used a slotted spoon to remove the skin and bones from the pot.

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I grabbed myself some vegetables. You always need vegetables in soup.

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I also had about 2 cups cooked brown rice leftover from a canine digestive issue that needed getting rid of.

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Flickr would not let me upload this picture until I cropped it and added contrast and vignetting. Apparently an unedited picture of leftover rice does not count as a valid photo to the Flickr Uploadr people.

All the goodness in your carrots is in the skin, so if you’re putting them in a soup, consider just giving them a good scrubbing instead of peeling them, then slice them up. Three carrots went under the knife for this recipe.

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Green onions, on the other hand, are cleanest if you remove all the outer layers and wash them thoroughly. I used 2 green onions here.

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I only used half an onion in this recipe, because I wasn’t making that much soup. Did you know that an onion is less likely to make you cry if it’s come out of the fridge? The cold slows down the chemical reaction that releases the eye irritant into the air.

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I chucked all the vegetables and rice into the steamy broth and then diced up the chicken meat before chucking it in as well.

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My compost bin earned some new additions.

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Let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are softened, and then serve it hot. Possibly with biscuits. It’s up to you.

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Hot and Sour Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

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This comes from The Foodess and it might be THE BEST THING EVER.  I love hot and sour soup, as does Atlas, so I made this with her in mind and everyone who ate it LOVED it.

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Start with with a giant pot and chuck in 2 litres of chicken broth. I like the low-salt stuff. Add 2 cups water to that.

Now slice some stuff up. Take some ginger, a 2″ knob.

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Peel that and slice it up.

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Grab 2 stalks lemongrass, and peel off the outer bits.

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Slice it into 2″ lengths. I also cut mine in half lengthwise, to increase the lemongrass flavour’s exposure to the broth.

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Grab a handful of kaffir lime leaves (about 8-10). You can freeze the other ones for later.

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So you’ve got all this stuff.

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Chuck all that in the pot with the broth and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat, stuff the lid on and leave it for 30 minutes.

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In the meantime, grab yourself some mushrooms. The recipe called for 2 cups whole button mushrooms but I had shiitake on hand, so I cut off the woody stems and sliced them into strips instead.

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Slice up a cup of cherry tomatoes as well.

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Grab 2 oz dried noodles, any kind. I liked the look of this ditali stuff.

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You’re also going to need a cold roasted chicken, like the kind you get at the grocery store. I used to be leery of the fact that they sat out for so long, but then I talked to someone who worked at a grocery store and he said they sold so fast they were always making new ones. And they’re such a time-saver!

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Anyway, take that sucker and pick it apart, shredding the meat with your fingers. You’re going to need 2 cups shredded chicken, so I just did the whole bird and got a little more than that.

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Juice 3 limes and set that aside for a minute.

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Gather together as well a giant bunch of baby spinach leaves, and chop them coarsely. It’s harder than it looks.

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Chop up as well a giant handful of cilantro. I had a brainfart in the grocery store and bought Italian parsley by mistake and had to go back. But they are very similar in appearance. So I chucked in some Italian parsley too.

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While you’re gathering your stuff together, grab some fish sauce and sriracha, and some sea salt.

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Use a slotted spoon to remove the ginger, lemongrass, and lime leaves from the broth. You can chuck those bits in the compost now.

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Add in the mushrooms, tomatoes, and noodles. Bring those puppies back to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes, until the noodles are tender.

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Stir in the chicken, 4-6 tablespoons sriracha (I used 2 tablespoons because of the nursing mum, and it was spicy enough), the lime juice, and a few teaspoons fish sauce. Add some salt to taste.

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Add in your spinach and cilantro and cook that for a minute or so until everything is bright green. Serve hot, with additional cilantro on top, if desired. Fantastic the next day.

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Wingin’ It Wednesday: Butternut Squash Soup

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I had a craving for a roasted vegetable soup, and my parents picked up a variety of squashes from the local farmer’s market, so I grabbed the nearest butternut and I got started.  I love any excuse to roast vegetables, so preheat your oven to 450°F and get some pans ready.

I sliced up a butternut squash and set it on a baking sheet.  Actually, it took two baking sheets (butternut squashes have a lot on them).  I also cut the tops off 4 heads garlic and chucked them on a sheet as well.

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I had about 4 or 5 parsnips that I scrubbed and cut up as well to be roasted. They’ll add sweetness to the mix. This is gonna be a sweet soup.

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Drizzle all yo’ roasty goodness with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast everything for about 45 minutes, or until they’re nice and crusty on the outside and you can jab a fork in them easily.

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The parsnips should be squishy in their innards as well.

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Told you there was a lot to a butternut squash.

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You’re going to want to wait until the garlic has cooled before you pop the sticky cloves out with your fingers.

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While that’s roasting or cooling or whatever, chop up about 2 large onions and plop them in a frying pan with some butter and some olive oil and cook them on medium low until they start to caramelize.  This will make them lovely and sweet.

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Peel the roasted squash (or use a big metal spoon to scoop it out of the skin, like I did) and plop it in a big mother of a pot, together with your caramelized onions, your roasted parsnips, and your roasted garlic.

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Top the pot up with some stock.  I ended up using 3 cartons (at 900mL each) of chicken stock.

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Bring that to a simmer, stirring to break up the squash a bit.  Season with salt and pepper while you’re waiting for it to bubble.

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Once it starts to bubble, leave it for a few minutes, then remove it from the heat and have a go at it with the immersion blender.  BRRRRRRRZZZZZZZZZHT! Season with a bit of nutmeg to taste.

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Serve with more sprinkled nutmeg, a dash of plain yogurt or sour cream, some chives, or just plain Jane like this!

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Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

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This warm bowl of rosy goodness reminds me a bit of my winged red soup from ages ago (which I may try to recreate in the future) and it’s just as easy.  I made a heckuva lot of this, mostly to freeze for Krystopf and Atlas for after the baby comes, so feel free to cut this recipe into thirds for more reasonable servings.

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You’re going to need 3 heads garlic;

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3 red onions;

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24 ripe roma tomatoes;

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and about 18 large red peppers.

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Preheat your oven to 450°F.  Peel the garlic and cut each clove in half.  Chop up the onions as well and chuck them in a roasting pan (I divided them between three roasting pans).

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Chop up the tomatoes and red peppers and put them in the pans as well.

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Drizzle with olive oil, dust with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.

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Roast the vegetables for 25-35 minutes, or until they are soft and starting to char.

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Meanwhile, bring a pot with about 2 litres stock (chicken, vegetable, whatever) to a boil.

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When the vegetables are ready, chuck them in the broth and give it a good stir.  Add several dashes of Tabasco Sauce and remove it from the heat.

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Have a go at it with an immersion blender and then season with salt, pepper, and more Tabasco as desired.  Serve hot (or cold).  The flavour intensifies over a couple of days and it freezes great.

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Aw Yiss. Some Motha. Flippin’. Tomato Soup.

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I don’t know why I felt the need to use that title.  I just DID.  Also, in case you didn’t recognize the meme, Canadian comic artist Kate Beaton is awesome and you should read her stuff.

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What do you do when you are moving and you have too many cans of tomatoes in your pantry, and your husband has left an open can of tomato paste in your refrigerator?

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I think we all know the answer to this.  It’s in the title after all.  Besides, nothing says summer in Newfoundland like a big bowl of hot soup.  And I’m not even kidding.  I haven’t seen the sun in a while and as I write this it is raining and 7°C.  Now you can use fresh tomatoes in this soup, and I’m sure there’s a good argument for doing so, because the taste is so much better and whatever.  Personally, if I have a nice fresh tomato in my hands, I’m going to want to eat it as is, not simmer it in a soup.  But to each his own.

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If you do decide to use fresh tomatoes, I recommend blanching them first to get the skins off.  Put a put of water on the boil and when it’s a-rollin’, submerge your tomatoes in the water for about a minute and a half, until the skins start to split.

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Remove the tomatoes from the pot and plunge them into a bowl of cold water (to stop the tomatoes from cooking and going mushy).

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Then you can just peel them easy as you please.

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Take a few carrots, peel them, and chop them up.

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Do the same with a large sweet onion.

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You know when you are reading real estate listings and you have to sort of translate them to understand what the sellers are trying to tell you?  Like, “cozy” means “small”, “quaint” means that none of the doors are level and won’t shut properly, and “rustic” means “broken”.  I think you can apply almost the same principle to food.  At least in terms of soups.  When I read that a soup is “hearty” that tells me that there’s more stuff in it than liquid.  And when I read “rustic” I understand that the creators were just too lazy to cut everything up extra small.  So by that logic pretty much everything I ever make is “rustic.”

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Sauté the onions in a large saucepan with a gob of vegetable oil until they are soft and transparent.

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Now you can huck in your spices.  I used some minced garlic, smoked paprika, and then some powdered chicken stock.  Give that a good stir.

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Now you can add in your tomatoes (I used 2 cans plus the 2 fresh ones I blanched) and your carrots.  I didn’t drain my canned tomatoes because I wanted the liquid.  If you’re using fresh tomatoes you may want to add in a bit of water. Plop in a can of tomato paste as well, to thicken it up.

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Simmer that for a while until the carrots are soft.  Now you can leave this in its hearty, rustic state, or you can give it a whaz with your handy immersion blender and mix it up.

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I chose the latter, obviously.

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Then I took a can of evaporated milk that Mrs. Nice had purchased for undisclosed reasons and poured that in. Uh, don’t, you know, confuse evaporated milk with condensed milk. I don’t think that would end well.

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Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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I would have loved to serve it with fresh basil but dried had to do.  Yum!

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