Wingin’ it Wednesday: Standard Stirfry

Me: What do you want for dinner?

Pie: I dunno. What do YOU want for dinner?

Me: I dunno. Stir fry?

And that, ladies and gents, is how 85% of our weekday meal conversations go. Usually we end up making a stir fry – it’s an easy, relatively easy, and healthier alternative to a whole bunch of the pre-made meals you get at the grocery store.

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First, cube up some chicken. Or beef. Or tofu. Whatever floats your boat.

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Then brown it in a pan with a dash of olive oil, some minced ginger, and minced garlic.

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While that’s going on, chop up some vegetables – any kind you like. Slice them thin so they will cook quickly. We used carrots, sugar snap peas, red peppers, onions, and broccoli here. If you want, you can also cook some rice or noodles to serve as a base for the stir fry.

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When the chicken is cooked, haul it out of the pan and put it aside in a bowl.

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Tip your onions into the pan to soften first.

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Then add in the rest of the veggies.

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Whip up a quick sauce of about 2 tablespoons plum sauce, 1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce, 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, and 1 teaspoon peanut oil. Feel free to experiment with proportions and different sauces – we’ve experimented for a few years and this is the combo we like the best.

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Pour the sauce over the vegetables, stir it in, and pop a lid on the pan so the vegetables have a chance to steam a bit. How long this takes obviously depends on the amount of vegetables you have. You want them tender but not soggy.

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Toss your chicken back in to re-heat, then serve immediately over your rice or noodles.

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Yum!

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Cheesy Cauliflower and Broccoli

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Oh Jamie Oliver, you rarely let me down. Today is no exception. This recipe takes your standard cauliflower with cheese sauce to the next (actually, the highest) level with very little effort. Plus it involves SO MUCH VEGETABLE. A great source of good food in these final days of winter. I like to buy the flash-frozen vegetables at the supermarket, especially in the winter, because I know that they were at their freshest when they were frozen and haven’t spent days or weeks rattling around in a truck to get to me before they rot.

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Start by preheating your oven to 350°F. Grab 1kg cauliflower florets (A WHOLE KILOGRAM) and dump that in a large baking dish. I used half frozen florets on the bottom …

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… and half fresh ones on top.

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Scoop up a decently medium-sized pot and dump in about 4 tablespoons butter and the equivalent of 2 cloves of garlic (you can peel and slice it, but I used it from a jar here and I’m not sorry). Heat that on medium until the butter is melted and the garlic is sizzling.

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Sprinkle in about 4-5 tablespoons flour and stir that until it forms a gummy paste, like in the picture.

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Now, drizzle in, a little bit at a time, 2 cups milk. Whisk it all the while as you add so you don’t get lumps.

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Tip in 500g broccoli florets (fresh or frozen). Let those simmer away until they’re pretty much mushy.

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When they’re nice and mushy, you should mash ’em. I found the potato masher didn’t quite cut it so I used my immersion blender.

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Glorious.

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Now add in like 1/2 cup grated cheddar (or any cheese of your preference). Turn down the heat a bit and let that melt.

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Now pour your green creamy mixture on top of the cauliflower.

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Dig the cauliflower up a little bit to make sure the sauce gets into the middle.

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In a food processor, whaz together about 2 slices stale bread, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, and about 2-3 tablespoons flaked almonds and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Bread crumb topping!

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Sprinkle another 1/2 cup grated cheese over top of the cauliflower, then top with the bread crumb mixture.

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Bake the whole thing for an hour, until the crumbs are golden and everything is bubbly. I found that it was best to cover the crumb topping with foil so it didn’t burn.

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Sooooo good!

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Fancy Baby Meatloaf

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The other day the doorbell rang just as I had my hands deep in after-dinner dishes.  The Pie answered, and I heard him speaking to someone, and then the door shut and he came back all excited to tell me that we were going to be receiving FREE MEAT!

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Are you skeptical?  I was a little skeptical, picturing some guy with a Radio Flyer wagon trundling around tossing steaks of unknown origin at people.   But I know the Pie will never turn down a free sample of anything, especially meat.

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Anyway, the next day, the Pie got a call and a lovely farmer came in and sat with us for about ten minutes and told us all about his farm in Vankleek Hill and the prospect of buying meat through Nutrafarms.  He gave us a little sheet of paper with some bullet points on it and his contact information at the bottom.  As he left, he handed us a free sample of about half a pound of frozen ground beef.

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So to test it out, I made meat loaf.  Two wee tiny meatloaves.  The Pie LOVES meatloaf.

I started out by finely dicing a small onion.

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I chucked that in a bowl with some garlic, 2 sprigs chopped fresh rosemary, and about 4 sprigs chopped fresh parsley, with some salt and pepper.

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Then I chucked the defrosted meat into the bowl with 1 egg and stirred that around.

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I bought this Brown Sauce for the Pie for Christmas and I figured now was as good a time as any to try it.

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It’s got a date base, and the fruity tang I thought would balance the sharpness of the rosemary and parsley.  So I added a few tablespoons brown sauce.

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Then I sprayed two tiny casserole dishes and patted the meat into place.

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Now all that’s left is to bake it for 30 minutes at 350ºF, then let them rest for a few minutes before eating.

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We served ours with steamed broccoli and wee roasted potatoes.  What a great comfort meal!

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Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

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I’ve gotten into the habit of occasionally buying those hot roasted chickens from the grocery store.  They’re just so darned cheap and handy, not to mention tasty.  Last weekend, the Pie was out of town, and sometimes I forget to actually eat when he’s not around, so I bought the chicken to give me some incentive.  One leg at one meal, one leg at another, and I was set.  But I still had the body of the chicken left to deal with.  I dismantled the remainder of the carcass, including the breasts, and whipped up this quick pasta dish to greet the Pie when he came home.  He went back for seconds so I think I did a good job.

So.  Chicken.  You’ll need about 2 cups shredded chicken.

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About 1 cup ranch dressing.

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An onion, some garlic, and a head of broccoli.  Chop those up.

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Cook 4 slices bacon.

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Make them super crispy and then put them somewhere to drain.

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Start your pot of boiling water to make your pasta.  You’ll need enough noodles for four.  I used linguini.

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Grab a pot and chuck in a few tablespoons olive oil.  Add in the onions and cook until translucent and smelling fabulous.

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Then add in the broccoli and garlic and stir that as well.

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Next, add in a few pinches dry mustard and pepper and paprika (you’ll see the paprika added in a later photo but that’s because I had to wait for the Pie to pick it up from the store on his way home).

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Pour in about 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup cream, and the 1 cup ranch dressing.

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Chuck in the chicken, then cut up the bacon and chuck that in as well.

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Stir that to heat things up.  You’re not really going to want to cook this for a long time.

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Then add in a few tablespoons pesto.  And some more cream if you want it thicker.

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Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  Dump the sauce over top and toss to coat.  Serve immediately, although it’s equally fantastic the next day.

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Wingin’ it Wednesday: Roasted Chicken and Veg for Two

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Sometimes you want all the comfort and rustic homeyness of a roasted chicken and crackling roasted vegetables, but you don’t have the time or the inclination to go through all the bother.  In our case, we also don’t have enough people in the house at the moment to eat a whole chicken.  So here is my solution.

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Take a small roasting pan and a handful of vegetables you’d like to roast.  Here I have half a large onion, several small white potatoes, and a head of broccoli.

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I tossed those in olive oil and seasoned them with salt, pepper, fresh rosemary, and Newfoundland savoury (thanks Fussellette!).

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On top of that, I set 2 large bone-in chicken breasts.  Bone-in roasts better than bone-out, trust me. In a small bowl I mixed together salt, pepper, Old Bay seasoning, and some dry mustard.

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Then I added a little lemon juice to it to turn it into a paste.

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This paste I brushed on top of the chicken breasts.

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Then I roasted everything (in my toaster oven, no less) at 400°F for about 30 minutes, stirring the vegetables occasionally, until the chicken was cooked through and the juices ran clear.  I served it with some Vidalia onion relish that really helped to pick up the flavours. Yum.  Rustic comfort food for two!

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The King of Cream Soups

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This is a variation on my other cream of broccoli soup recipe, but I like this one better because it uses less cream and the thickener is cauliflower instead of starchy potatoes.

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And I have called it the king of cream soups because it’s my favourite of them all.

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And also because I found this old cushion cover embroidered by one of my great aunts and decided it would make a nice backdrop.

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Start with your vegetables: onions, broccoli, and cauliflower. I ended up making a relatively small soup, so I only used 1 onion, 2 heads broccoli, and half a head cauliflower.

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Chop the onion up relatively fine and heave it in a pot with some olive oil and some minced garlic. Sautée that on medium heat until the onions are translucent.

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While that’s on the go, chop up your broccoli.

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Shave the tough skin off the stems and use that as well.

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Broccoli is good for you, so use it all.

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Do the same with the cauliflower.

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Heave those in the pot as well, and give them a stir.

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At this point I added about 4 cups chicken stock, but you can use as much as you’d like, or water, or any other stock.  Enough to make a soup of it, I guess.

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Then I simmered it until I could squish the cauliflower with the back of my spoon (broccoli will become squishier faster, so the cauliflower should be your test).

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Then out comes my brszzht — I mean, immersion blender.

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And now you add the sauciness: here we have dijon mustard, Worcestershire (“wooster”) sauce, a dash of cream and two big spoonfuls of plain yogurt. Give those a good stir to mix.

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Serve it hot (I guess you could serve it cold if you liked, but that’s weird) with some grated cheddar cheese.

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Fit for royalty?  Absolutely.

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Wingin’ It Wednesday: Red Soup, Green Soup

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It’s been so busy here since Victoria Day that we haven’t had a chance to really do a lot of cooking for cooking’s sake.  As a result, when I cleaned out our refrigerator this weekend in preparation for my parents’ arrival tomorrow (!), I found a sizable amount of very sad-looking produce.  When I bought it, it looked sad, as most Newfoundland produce does, and two weeks in my crisper made it sadder still.  Sad vegetables are just begging to be chucked in sauces, roasted, layered in a casserole, or made into soup.  So I made soup.

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I had red vegetables and green vegetables, and so I decided to make two different soups.

Each one started with onions and garlic, obviously.

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The red soup was carrots, red peppers, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes.

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And I scooped out the seeds of the tomatoes.  Well, some of them. I got bored quickly.

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Chop that up, chuck it in a pot with some broth, some chipotle seasoning, and chinese five spice, then blend it up and you’ve got a savoury soup with a bit of kick.

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The green soup had fennel, celery, cucumbers, broccoli, leeks, and cabbage.

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To even out the flavours I added dill, mustard powder, salt, and a dash of cumin.  Blended up, it’s cool as the cucumbers inside it.

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Then I stored them all in plastic containers and froze them for future enjoyment!

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