Citrus Chipotle Cranberry Sauce? Believe it.

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I made a fancy cranberry sauce for Christmas last year but for some reason I didn’t blog it. This year for Thanksgiving (13 October in Canada) I wanted something a little spicier (but not much spicier) than the traditional sauce, so I thought that this would be a good bloggable opportunity, and I modified this recipe I found on Epicurious (originally of Bon Appétit) to do it. The result is a delightfully rich cranberry sauce with a hint of savoury and garlic and a smoky after taste. It’s truly amazeballs (yes, that is the technical term).

Chipotle Cranberry Sauce 1

Start with 2 dried chipotle chillies. Super dried. Gross.

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Plop those in a medium saucepan filled with water and bring it to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let those chillies soak up the hot water for an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how dried out they are. You want to be able to mince them in the end. Your house will smell like chipotle for like forever, just a warning. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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Grab yourself an orange and a lemon and zest them.

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I used a small rasp to get most of the zest but I used one of the fancy kinds for cocktails to get a bit of rind for colour.

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Juice the lemon while you’re at it and save the juice. Eat the orange because it’s good for you. DO IT.

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When the chillies are soft, drain them and then plop them in another pot with 24oz fresh cranberries (that’s two of the standard bags you get at the grocery store), the lemon and orange zest and lemon juice, 3/4 cup dried diced apricots (optional but worth it), and about 2 cups sugar. I actually saved a splash of the chipotle water and added it in as well, probably about 2-3 tablespoons.

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Heat that over medium, stirring, until the sugar is all dissolved.

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Now, you’re supposed to keep the chillies in there until the end and then take them out, stem and deseed them, and then plop them back in. But my chillies were so soft they started falling apart almost immediately.

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So I took out the bits of chipotle earlier, minced them (which was easier than I thought it would be, considering how hard they used to be), and added them back in. A few stray seeds made it in as well but there’s no harm in that.

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Keep cooking the berries, stirring occasionally now, until they start to softly POP open (it’s a delightful noise, I promise). Stir in 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin.

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Keep stirring that until the sauce starts to thicken a bit and you can tell that the flavours have all gotten to know each other. Then you can remove it from the heat and let it cool.

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Chill the cranberry sauce for up to one week before it’s needed. It also freezes fantastically.

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I actually hope this lasts until Thanksgiving Monday. The Pie and I keep scooping out bites of it with a spoon.

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Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese

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Ando made this for Thidz’ birthday last week and it went down so well that he suggested I put it on the blog.  So here it is, adapted to his standards.  While the whole thing takes a little while to prepare, it’s all easy stuff that you can do in stages.  I ended up having most of it ready in the morning and then just chucked it together at the end and baked it.  But we’ll work from the bottom up on this layered casserole.  Also, the recipe says it serves 8, but really it serves 4 because you are going to want seconds.

BOTTOM:

Preheat your oven to 425°F and spray a 9″ springform pan with cooking spray.  My pan was a little wider, but that’s fine.

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In a teeny bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and some salt and ground black pepper to taste.

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Peel 2 medium sweet potatoes.  I only had large ones, so I opted to just do one, but I could have used both and it would have been fine.

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Use a mandoline to shave off super thin slices.

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Chuck those pieces in a bowl, drizzle with a few tablespoons vegetable oil, and add in your spice mix.  Toss with your hands until the oil and spices evenly coat all the potato pieces.

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Layer the sweet potato slices evenly in the bottom of the pan.

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Bake for 15-20 minutes until they are softened and starting to brown.  Ando wanted to bake them longer to make them more crisp, so I tried that, but I found that once you piled the rest of the ingredients on top they went soft again anyway, so don’t worry too much about that.  The Pie hoped for a thicker layer of sweet potatoes (because I only used the one potato and my pan was wider), so next time I would go for two.

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MIDDLE:

Grab yourself some pork tenderloin.  I had a boneless pork loin rib here that was on stupid sale so I used that.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 2

You’ll need 2lbs pork, cut into 2″ chunks.  If I did this again, I would cut the chunks larger, just so your pulled pork strings end up being decently long.

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Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and add in the meat.  It goes gray almost immediately, which is kind of gross.  Reduce to a simmer and leave that on the go for about an hour.

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Drain the pork and use 2 forks to shred it into little pieces.

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Then you’re going to need some barbecue sauce.  Ando expressed concern that the sauce tended to overpower the more delicate flavours of the macaroni and cheese on top, so we picked out a milder apple butter sauce and it worked out fantastically.  The sweetness of the apple really worked well with the pork.

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So you pour 14oz barbecue sauce all over your pork and mix it in.

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Then you add in 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and stir that in as well, then set the whole thing aside.

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TOP:

Bring another saucepan of water to a boil and add a pinch or two of salt.  When it’s boiling, add in 8oz elbow pasta (MACARONI) and cook according to your package instructions.  When it’s ready, drain the water, saving about 1/4 cup of it.  Add the water back to the pasta in the pot.

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Add to the pasta 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (I think the sharper the better), 1/2 cup grated Gruyere (we used Jarlsberg), and 1/4 cup creme fraiche (which is next to impossible to find in Newfoundland, so we used sour cream instead).  Because Ando suggested boosting the flavour of the mac, I added a few crumbles of blue cheese (Rochefort) as well.

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Stir that up until it’s all melted, then add a few drops of hot sauce (we used Tabasco) to taste.

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Season it with salt and pepper and set it aside.

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CRUST:

Melt 1/4 cup butter and stir it up with 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and 1 cup panko breadcrumbs.

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ASSEMBLY:

Smooth the pulled pork over the sweet potatoes.

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Dollop the macaroni on top of that and flatten it down a bit.

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Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of that to completely cover the macaroni.

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Bake for 15 minutes, until the casserole is hot through and the bread crumbs are browned.

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DISASSEMBLY:

Ideally you should be able to pop open the springform pan and cut this puppy like a cake.  My pork ended up being supremely saucy and thus too slithery to be architecturally sound in terms of casserole structure.  Meaning I tried to pop off the frame and then the whole thing went sideways — literally and figuratively.  So we just scooped it out with spoons, hence the lack of presentation.  Didn’t matter.  Ate it anyway.  And it was awesome.  Thanks Ando!

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Tofu Feature Month: Corn and Tofu au Gratin

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin

This quick and warm meal comes just in time for the start of school and our rainy season here in Newfoundland.  So while the wind howls outside our windows, averaging 75km/h (on a relatively calm day), and the rain patters through the holes in our leaky roof, we can curl up after a long day at school with this comforting little casserole.   I pulled it from Metro’s recipe site, and modified it a bit because I can’t find chipotle purée anywhere (hint, hint: stocking stuffers, people).

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Chop up about 1/2 a small onion.

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin

In a large skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat.  Chuck in your chopped onion and 2 teaspoons minced garlic and sweat that stuff for a minute or so.

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Next, crumble up 1 (1lb) package firm tofu and dump that into the pan.

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin

Add in 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 2 teaspoons chipotle seasoning (chipotle purée if you can get it), 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and the leaves from 4 sprigs of fresh thyme.

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin

Also add 1 12oz can of corn, drained (you could probably use thawed frozen corn, too). This is the world’s best can opener, by the way. We got it at Lee Valley. You should get one.

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin

Then add 1 cup vegetable broth.

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin

Stir that around and reduce for 5-10 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated.

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin

Transfer the whole shebang to a baking dish and top with 7oz crumbled chèvre (goat’s cheese).

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin

Bake until the cheese is melty (chèvre doesn’t get all runny, so you have to keep an eye on it), about 10 minutes, and serve right away.  Fantastic reheated the next day as well.

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin

Summer Soft Tacos

While it’s in our immediate plans to learn how to make our own tortillas, we haven’t gotten there yet.  So for now we’re using store-bought corn tortillas and that’s working out just great.

Tacos and wraps are great because you can get creative with what you use.  You can use poultry, beef, pork, soy … whatever you want.  You can even use leftovers, add new spices, and come up with whole new dishes.  Plus they’re easy for when you don’t have a lot of spare time at night.  And kids like making their own.  So it’s a win-win situation for all.

This super-easy recipe takes about 20 minutes from start to finish, and by my measurements, feeds 3 people and uses 10 small corn flour tortillas.  You can of course up the recipe for more.

Start by finely chopping up 1 red onion.

Put half that onion in a good-sized bowl and the other half elsewhere.

Then finely chop up 2 tomatoes and add them to the onion.

Ditto 4 leaves lettuce (Romaine).

And an avocado.

And a bunch of cilantro.

Toss.

Liberally season with salt and pepper and lime juice.  Set that aside to get all percolated with cilantro and lime goodness.

In a tiny bowl, mix 2 tablespoons chili powder with 1 tablespoon ground cumin and 1 tablespoon corn starch.

In a medium saucepan, sauté up that other half onion with a clove or two of minced garlic (about 2 teaspoons).

Add in about 1 pound (450g) lean ground beef and stir until browned.  Add in the spice mix and cook for a few minutes longer, until thick and saucy.

Grate up some cheddar cheese and have some sour cream handy as you artfully arrange all your foodie bits around you.

Now take a tortilla and smooth on some sour cream.  Then sprinkle some of your tex-mex meat.

Scoop on some salad and a dropping of cheese.

Roll from one end to the other.

Like rolling a dead person up in a rug.  Or a burrito.  And eat that sucker.  Mmmm.

Not the Whole Enchilada

My dad and I have taken to trading off on dinner duty.  Today, he was running around town finishing his errands (one of which included a much-needed trip to the grocery store), so I ransacked the refrigerator and tried to figure out what I could make with what was left inside.

I’d been craving some Tex-Mexicana but I didn’t want to go through the time-consuming (but worth it) effort of making our very popular chicken enchiladas, so I kind of improvised.

First I set two chicken breasts to poach in half chicken broth, half water, so they were covered about an inch with liquid.

The trick with poaching is to bring the water to a boil and then very quickly turn it to low, so you only get the slightest little bubble.

I left them like that for about 45 minutes or so, then drained them and shredded them with a fork.

I set that aside and turned my mind to other things. 

Like grating up some cheddar cheese.  I like lots of cheese.I diced up a large onion and chucked in in a large pan with two teaspoons garlic-in-a-jar and the same in olive oil.

I also diced up a sweet yellow pepper and three small tomatoes fresh from the garden (ah, Ontario produce, how I have missed you!).

I sautéed the onions with the garlic until they were softened.

Chucked in the other vegetables.  How’s that for lovely colour?

Then I added a teaspoon ground cumin and two teaspoons chili powder.  You can of course adjust this to suit your own preferences.

I then added some of the tasty hot sauce leftover from my brother’s wedding.

Then a can (680mL, a little more than two and a half cups) of tomato sauce (puréed tomatoes would also work here).

Let that simmer and thicken on medium heat for about twenty minutes.  Or as long as it takes you to cook your rice.  My rice takes about twenty minutes, if I cook it according to my husband’s very exacting standards.

Add your shredded chicken to your tomato sauce mixture and stir it around until the chicken is thoroughly coated and nice and warm.

Serve over your rice with grated cheddar cheese.

We even had some leftover, so I would say this recipe serves 4 or even 5 (Dad had seconds).  Not bad for a we-have-nothing-in-the-fridge kind of meal.

Quick Chili

Fall is always a busy season for me.  Usually, school is ramping up and the hot weather has disappeared, leaving me with more energy to get out and be active.  Plus the hockey season starts in October, and that keeps me busy until June.

As the outside temperature cools, we start making hotter dishes to keep us warm.  But because the fall is so busy, we don’t always have the time to have some sort of comfort food simmering on the stove all day.

This chili recipe can be ready in half an hour, and tastes almost as good as its slow-cooker counterpart.

So you start, as always, with an onion and some garlic.  I of course use garlic-in-a-jar, but you can use whatever you like.

Chop up the onion.

This is where I like to use the new love of my life, the Onion Goggles.  I’ve tried knives dipped in lemon juice, and cutting onions next to an open flame, but these work wayyyyy better.

Of course, I look like a total dweeb when I wear them.

Anyway, chuck your onion in a saucepan with some garlic and olive oil and cook until the onions are translucent.

Chop up two red peppers and chuck them in as well, together with some chopped fresh basil.

Add in some cumin, chili powder, and tabasco sauce (hot sauce) to taste, together with whatever else you need to make it the kind of spicy you’re in the mood for.

Our hot sauce came from my brother’s wedding.  It’s pretty good.

Next you can add in your beans.  White beans, black beans, kidney beans, it really doesn’t matter (well, perhaps not broad beans).  They can come from a can or a bag, but make sure they’re cooked before you chuck them in.  This is a bean medley my mother cooked up a while ago and froze.

Pour in a can of diced tomatoes.

Add a handful or two of TVP if you wish.  If you think the chili is too liquidy, you can also add a can of tomato paste for thickening.

I like to pop in some frozen corn when it’s almost ready.

Let it simmer the whole time you’re adding stuff, then for about twenty minutes after you’ve added the last ingredient.

Serve hot, store in your refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze it for a quick dinner some time later on.