Sweet and Sour Pork Meatballs

To accompany the legendary Chocolate Moose Cake on Rusty and Mags’ inaugural Newfoundland dinner, the Pie and I decided to try something new and accompany it with something old.

These meatballs come from the Canadian Living Test Kitchen and are super scrummy.  There are lots of ingredients involved but the process is simple and they can be made ahead of time, which is great.  They also make for great hors d’oeuvres, if you put them on little pointy sticks.  Or plastic swords.  With paper umbrellas.

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Crack an egg into a bowl and scramble the sucker until it’s nice and frothy.

Plop in the following:

1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs (I used panko but it doesn’t really matter)

1/4 cup chopped green onions

2 tablespoons grated carrot (I used one whole small carrot here)

1 teaspoon grated ginger (I used powdered because I had no fresh and no minced – if you’re using powder use a little extra)

Mix that all together, then add in 1 lb lean ground pork and smush that all together.

Scoop the pork mixture up with a tablespoon and roll it into balls.  Place the balls (I ended up with exactly 24) on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until they are no longer pink inside, about 15 minutes.  

Reduce the oven heat to 350°F and leave it on.

Meanwhile, you can start your sweet and sour sauce.

In another bowl, whisk together the following:

1 cup pineapple juice (I like to keep several small cans of this handy, for use in sweet sauces and also in starters for sourdoughs.)

1/3 cup ketchup (we used barbecue sauce, because the Pie won’t let ketchup across the threshold of our house)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon corn starch

2 teaspoons grated ginger (again, I used powdered)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Chop up one small onion and sauté it in a small saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil until it is tender.  I added some more green onions in, just for colour.

Add in the sauce and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow it to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes or until the sauce is thickened (that’s the corn starch working there).

Add in your meatballs and stir them around to coat them.

Now, here is where you can stop, if you wish.  You can let the meatballs and sauce cool completely, seal them in an airtight container or freezer bag and then refrigerate or freeze them until you are ready to use them.  Just make sure they’re thawed completely before you do the final cooking.
Transfer the meatballs and sauce to a baking dish and bake in your 350°F oven, stirring once, for 25 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly.  You can sprinkle the meatballs with more green onions for garnish, if you wish.

We served the meatballs with fresh bread from the Georgestown Bakery and our favourite Hash Wednesday potatoes (minus the chicken).  Because it’s Wednesday after all.

Jerusalem Artichoke and Carrot Jalapeno Soup

Here we’ve reached the last of our Jerusalem artichokes.  Have you had enough?  I think I have.

This is kind of a garbage soup, but only sorta.

Chop up a large onion.  Or in my case, half an onion and two shallots.  Chuck those in a pot with some olive oil and garlic.

I still had some eggplant leftover from that lasagna I made a little while back.  You can leave that as an option at your discretion.

Chop up three jalapeños and chuck them in as well.

Sauté them for a little bit.

Chop up two carrots and plop those in.

Chop up two pounds of jerusalem artichokes.  Those go in too.

Pour in enough chicken stock (about a litre) to almost cover and bring the liquid to a boil.  Simmer on medium-low for an hour or so, until all the vegetables are tender and you can squish the carrots with a spoon.

Take an immersion blender to it and give ‘er until it’s smooth.

Now take some romano and grate it up.  About three tablespoons.

Put it in a bowl and sprinkle it liberally with black pepper.

Pour in about half a cup whipping cream.  Whip it up good.

When stiff peaks form you’re set.

Plop a dollop of that on your soup with some Italian parsley.

Serve it up!

Easy Roasted Vegetables

It’s still winter here.  Honest.

Comfort food time.

Roasted vegetables are a good way to get in your food groups in a way that will keep you interested in maintaining your quotas.  I don’t eat roasted vegetables as often as I should, but they’re a nice way to jazz up a regular plate of meat, side, side, and they’re as easy as Pie (he’s really easy, trust me).  Plus stuff that has been sitting in your refrigerator for a little too long roasts just as well as the stuff you just bought.

Vegetables that roast well are things such as squash, zucchini, eggplant, onions, carrots, potatoes, and garlic.

I am also experimenting here with parsnips and turnip.  You should also experiment.  Try tomatoes, pears, greens … Just give ’em all a good scrub first.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Cut up your vegetables (in this case, carrots, parsnips, rootabega, squash, onion, red pepper, and eggplant) into pieces of a good size – the kind of size you’d want looking at you on a plate.

Toss them in a roasting pan with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and the dried herb of your choice (optional, but rosemary works well).  Here I used whole black peppercorns.

Roast, tossing once or twice, for about an hour, until everything is shriveled, crispy, and tender.  Serve hot with your meal. We had it with pork tenderloin.  Turnips/rootabegas, by the way, need parboiling before roasting.  They just cook so much slower than everything else.  The vegetables are also good cold the next day.  I plan to make a soup from the leftovers.  Stay tuned for that recipe.

Carrot and Parsnip Butter Mash

This is a modified version of a recipe in Easy Vegetarian, edited by Sharon Ashman, which Kª gave me for my birthday.  It’s total comfort food.  The original recipe calls for mixing spinach with the carrots, a surprising and tasty innovation, but as Kª was bringing a spinach salad on this occasion I replaced the spinach with parsnips.

Making this recipe is super easy but it goes against my principles of vegetable nutrition.  I have always been taught that you gently steam vegetables and you leave their skins on if possible, and that way you get all the good stuff the veggies have to offer.

Boiling the crap out of your vegetables, especially once peeled, means all the goodness goes down the drain when you pour out the water.

In this particular case, however, we will forgo the goodness for the tasty buttery-ness.

Peel up some carrots and some  parsnips, probably on a ratio of 3:1, as parsnips have a stronger flavour and you don’t need as many.  Slice ’em up into little discs and put them in a pot with enough water to cover them.  Boil the crap out of them FOR EVER, or at least until you can mash the carrots against the side of the pot with the back of a spoon (the parsnips will be super soggy by this point already).

Drain all the water out and, with a potato masher, mash up what you’ve got.  Add generous amounts of butter and some salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot, obviously.  I used 7 carrots and 3 parsnips and it served about 8 or 9 people.

Easter (Eater) Dinner

On Sunday the Pie and I had KK, Il Principe, and D, J, and S over for an Easter feast.

I have a lot on my plate this week (and I’m not talking about food here) so I’m going to draw the recounting of this tale out as long as I possibly can.  I’ll try to give you a post a day about all the fun and fantastic things we ate.

I love to have dinner parties.  I think it’s my parents’ influence again.  I’m not really happy unless I can stuff someone else with food until he or she feels the need to lie down.  It really makes my day.

That said, entertaining, on a small or large scale, takes a lot of work and a lot of planning.  Timing is pretty much everything, and it takes practice to get it all to happen at the same time.  The Pie and I have it down to an exact science at this point.  We take a gander at what time things are supposed to be done, chuck them in the oven or on the stove at the various points in time we think they need to go in, then we shut our eyes tight and cross our fingers that everything will turn out properly.  Most of the time we’re right but it took years to get us to this stage.

I have also learned the art of making things ahead of time.  This saves a lot of panic in the kitchen when you’re trying to get everything finished at the same time.  If there are some dishes on your menu that can be popped in the microwave or in the oven for reheating at the last minute then all the better.  Another important thing to remember, and something that I only recently learned, is that you don’t have to make absolutely everything from scratch.  There is nothing wrong with adding store-bought chips to your dips, or purchasing bread as a side.  The more stuff you make the more complications you are going to have.  Besides, sometimes the store versions of things are actually better.  You don’t have to have absolute control over everything that goes on your menu, and so that is why, finally, it is also important to let other people give you a hand if they want to.  Kª wanted to bring a salad, and you know what?  I thought that was a great idea.  And it was a great salad.

Items to be posted this week:

Menu

Appetizers

White Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Dip (made the day before)

Pita Chips (store-bought — really, you don’t have to be a domestic maven all the time – I get the In Snax sea salt versions from In Foods Inc.  They are totally tasty.)

Mains

Ham with Cloves (pre-cooked for simplicity)

Red Curry Quinoa (made the day before)

Sides

Spinach Salad with Blueberries, Feta Cheese, and Balsamic Vinaigrette (made by Kª – I don’t have a link because I didn’t make it)

Carrot and Parsnip Butter Mash (made the day before)

Steamed Asparagus with Lemon, Tarragon, and Toasted Almonds

Roasted Red Fingerling Potatoes with Rosemary and Sea Salt

Quick Drop Biscuits

Dessert

Strawberry Glazed Angel Food Cake (strawberry component prepared the day before)

Waiting for the feast.

Red Curry Quinoa

Our vegetarian experiment is drawing to a close, and I hadn’t yet made a curry.  I also had a lot of vegetables in my refrigerator that needed using.  In addition, I wanted to take advantage of my new stainless steel compost bin from Lee Valley and cut up a bunch of vegetables.  Hoorah.

I got the inspiration to make my own curried quinoa from fellow WordPress food blogger Lindsay at The Food Operas.

Dice up a medium onion, three medium carrots, three carrot-sized parsnips, a head of broccoli, a red pepper, and two stalks of celery.

Chop up some vegetables!

In a large saucepan (preferably one with a wide bottom), heat up some olive oil and chuck in your vegetables.  Cook until tender.

Pour in two large handfuls of quinoa, together with a can of coconut milk and a few tablespoons each of red curry paste and minced garlic (I like the stuff that comes in jars).  Bring to a boil and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.  Before serving, add a dash of tamari or soy sauce and some garlic chili sauce to taste.

Let that sucker simmer!

We ate it with some na’an.  Mmmm.

I love my na'an.

The Great Wedding Cupcake Experiment of 2009

The Pie and I were married on 22 August 2009.  We wanted to do our wedding on the cheap, because we are stone broke, and we also wanted to give our guests a little taste of our personality.  With that in mind, we turned down my parents’ repeated offers to make fruitcakes (‘but it’s a traditional Scottish wedding cake’) and decided to make cupcakes instead of buying a tiered and costly confection.

Which flavours were we to pick?  The choices were almost endless and we didn’t know where to begin.  My mother gave me Cupcake Heaven by Susannah Blake as a Christmas present, and we decided to start there.  With one exception, all the recipes we tried are from there.

I chose a panel of a dozen people at work to help us to test our cupcakes, and every one of them looked forward to Cupcake Friday.  By the time I was finished the experiment (which ran from the beginning of March to the end of June 2009), my panel had doubled in size and I was a very popular lady at work.

A crucial piece of machinery without which I would have gone MAD is the Kitchenaid stand mixer.  I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who does a lot of baking.  Also my camera, of course.  I took a lot of pictures during this period.  You can see the rest of them on my Flickr site here.

Apple Cinnamon Sour Cream Cupcakes

#1 Apple Cinnamon Sour Cream

These were extremely tasty but not particularly attractive, texture-wise.  Aesthetically they weren’t much to go on either.  The icing was also quite runny and very sticky, but also very good.  The sour cream mixed with the lemon and the icing sugar made a tangy topping.  The Committee thought it would make a good brunch baked good.

One thing to note about these is that I had to re-cup the cupcakes after they were baked, because the bottoms had burned a bit in my antiquated oven and I wanted to hide that.  Fun fact: if you re-cup a cupcake, the cupcake will not stick to the paper cup anymore, as you can see in the photograph.

 

#2 Carrot Cardamom

I really like the word ‘cardamom.’  These ones turned out exactly like the picture in the book, which was gratifying, and they had a much smoother texture than the Apple Cinnamon, which was reassuring.

I’m not a huge fan of walnuts, however; they have a bitter after taste that I am not fond of – I much prefer pecans.  The mascarpone icing, however, was incredible and there was an enormous amount of it.  If these cupcake experiments taught me anything (and to quote one of the Committee members), ‘there is no such thing as too much icing.’

Cherry and Marzipan Cupcakes

#3 Cherry and Marzipan Cupcakes

These little boogers were a spectacular failure on my part.  The recipe involved putting half the batter into the cup, then sprinkling it with grated marzipan, then putting the other half of the dough on top.  Silly me, I did all the bottom halves first, then all the marzipan, and by the time I got around to the tops, I had run out of batter.

In addition, I had to deal with runny icing and artificial cherries, and that’s never a good combination.  Let us not forget as well that I had to face the inevitable comments at work that these strongly resembled boobs.  So much for professionalism.

Overall, they were too sweet, and too much of a pain to make.  Vetoed.

… then something magic happened …

… my oven exploded!

I’m totally serious.  The Pie was making dinner one night and I heard this loud thrumming noise coming from the kitchen, accompanied by a yell that I should probably get in there.  I ran in and saw bright white light coming from the oven window – element was arcing and sending off sparks.  It was making the thrumming noise.  We turned off the oven and got the hell out of there.  Two days later my landlord bought us a new oven.  It’s so low tech that it has no interior light and you have to shine a flashlight in to see if your stuff is done, but it works really well, I will give it that.

The Perfect Cupcake was born.
Creamy Coconut Lime

#4 Creamy Coconut Lime

It was from this new oven that a new generation of cupcake was born.  I could now actually follow the recipe when it came to temperature and cooking time.  Nothing burned, or exploded.  It was inspiring, actually.  The first experiment to come out of the new oven, or ‘tailgate special’ as I like to refer to it, was this perfect confection.  It was unanimously voted by the Committee as the perfect cupcake for a wedding.  Nothing I made after this counted for much in their opinions.  I was, however, undaunted, and continued on with my experiments.  I couldn’t stop now – things were just getting good.

Orange Poppyseed with Mascarpone Icing

#5 Orange Poppyseed with Mascarpone Icing

In these, I substituted canned mandarin slices for regular orange segments.  Other than the fact that I am truly lazy and did not want to segment several oranges, the canned pieces meant that my cupcakes would be uniform and also that the quality of the fruit would be good.  Living in Newfoundland, especially during the winter, means that produce quality is always a guessing game.

These cakes were popular with those who liked poppyseeds.  I liked them, but the Pie was not a huge fan.

As you can see, I was really getting into my groove here.  My photographic cupcake record had turned more artistic now that my appliances were cooperating.

#6 Blueberry and Lemon with Cornmeal

These little beauties contained fresh Newfoundland blueberries stuck right into the batter, and were made with cornmeal, which made the batter a sunshiny yellow but which created a texture many were not expecting.

Blueberries directly in the batter!

I thought they were great but most people were unconvinced.  In any case, I had  a lot of fun with my new zester, creating and photographing my confections.

Martha Stewart eat your heart out:

Blueberry and Lemon with Cornmeal
Maple and Pecan Cupcakes

#7 Maple and Pecan

I had a lot of fun making these – and burned myself severely in the process.  They were one of my favourite cupcakes, taste-wise, but many people found the hard caramelized sugar too sharp or tough to bite into, the Pie included, so they were eventually scrapped.

Playing with melted sugar is a lot of fun.  If I ever made these again, however, I would let the sugar cool a bit more before pouring it, to keep the fluid from spreading too much – I think that was my major failing here.

Bittersweet Chocolate Wedding Cupcakes

#8 Bittersweet Chocolate Wedding Cupcakes

I ended up renaming these bad beauties Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse, because that’s pretty much what they tasted like, and that’s pretty much all the ‘icing’ really was: hot whipping cream poured over dark and bittersweet chocolate and then whipped into a light foam.  They are truly divine.  The batter itself was a little bland, however, so I thought I could improve somewhat.

You can see at this time that spring was coming, and my seedlings were on the sprout.  But spring comes late to Newfoundland, and we had a while yet to wait.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Icing

#9 Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Icing

I can pretty much guarantee that I will never make these again.  I have never been so disappointed with myself.  I didn’t want to serve them to the Committee, and some Committee members refused to even finish them.  They were dry and tasteless and the crystallized ginger on top was too strong.  It was supposed to be stem ginger in syrup but this being Newfoundland I couldn’t find any.

EPIC FAIL.

I had to redeem myself.

Experiment #10
Marble Cupcakes

#10 Marble Cupcakes

When these were finished they looked nothing like the photograph but boy were they tasty.  Inside was a chocolate-vanilla swirl cake that really wasn’t visible unless there was no icing but which was nice and moist and light.

The icing was cream cheese mixed with cream and icing sugar.  You can’t really top that, but of course that would mean leaving out the caramel.

I used Smucker’s caramel ice cream topping, but had I been thinking I would have used real dulce de leche, because it would have held its shape better and not oozed everywhere.  These cupcakes certainly entailed sticky fingers.

Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes with Ricotta Icing

#11 Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes with Ricotta Icing

The Pie and I wanted to experiment with a few lower-fat options, and this was one of them, containing no butter at all, and of course using ricotta cheese instead of cream cheese for icing.

They turned out really well but weren’t quite what we were looking for.

Chocolate Fireworks

#12 Chocolate Fireworks

These were meant to be served with lit sparklers in them, but I wasn’t sure how I would get them into the office.

I settled for the little silver balls instead.  Did you know they are called ‘dragees’?

The icing was rather unimaginative and runny, but the batter had some orange in it that kept in moist and gave it a nice tart tang.

Raspberry Trifle

#13 Raspberry Trifle

Unlucky number 13.  We were drawing to the close of our experiment here, with only three more recipes to try, and I was pretty tired of making cupcakes at this time.  It seemed every week I was adding someone new to the Cupcake Committee email distribution list.

I made these while watching Detroit lose to Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  I was cheering for the Red Wings (my beloved Senators didn’t even make the post-season) because I hate Crosby, but alas, I was out of luck.

This cake was really good, though, because it was chock-full of raspberries.  I thought the custardy topping could have had more flavour, but that might have had something to do with me failing at making custard.

Strawberry Vanilla Cheesecake

#14 Strawberry Vanilla Cheesecake

I left the picture of this one small because it’s blurry.  It was late, I was tired, and these were such a hassle that I forgot to take a picture until super late at night.

The recipe called for slicing off the top of the cupcake so the cream cheese topping would set, smooth and flat, like a real cheesecake.  I cut off the tops, which was a pain, considering I then had to re-cup the cakes, and then topped them.  And discovered that the topping wasn’t going to lie smooth and flat anyway.

There was some swearing.

In the end, these were one of my favourites: a fine vanilla cake with vanilla cream-cheesy ‘icing’ and sliced strawberries on top.  The fanning of the berry was my idea, as the berries I got weren’t of the quality that they would stand up on their own, like they were in the book.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cheesecake

#15 Gluten-Free Chocolate Cheesecake

Another cheesecake-y recipe that didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped.  The Pie’s grandmother is a celiac, as is one of my former coworkers, and both of them were coming to the wedding.  I didn’t want them to feel excluded from the cake part of the festivities, so I experimented with a gluten-free recipe.

It was an all right cupcake, but it wasn’t light or fluffy, the potato flour I used made the texture a little grainy, and, all in all, it was rather bland.

Coconut Cream from the Barefoot Contessa

#16 Coconut Cream

This was my final cupcake, and it wasn’t really an experiment.

One of the people in the Cupcake Committee had been talking about the Barefoot Contessa’s Coconut and Cream cupcakes for a while so as a final treat I decided to make them.  You can get the recipe from the Food Network here.

The cupcakes were huge, and I knew I wasn’t going to make them for the wedding – they were pretty time-consuming.  But everyone on the Committee had been talking about that other coconut recipe for ages, so I thought I would end it with an echo of the earlier recipe.

They were fabulous and if you ate more than one you felt ill.  We had wayyy too many leftovers and I think we ate them for three weeks straight.  Or at least it felt like that.  They were good though.  I recommend giving them a shot.

And that’s it.  Sixteen cupcakes in seventeen weeks.

Which ones did we eventually choose: Strawberry Vanilla Cheesecake, Fireworks (but with the icing from the Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse), and the Raspberry Trifle (but with a lemon cream cheese icing instead of the custard.  They were a hit.