Spag Bol Redux

Spag Bol Redux 16

I have so many fun and exciting things to show you guys in the near future, but I thought I’d do a little bit of a retrospective today. My very first entry on this here blog, five-plus years and 900-odd posts ago, was a recipe for spaghetti bolognese. I make this spaghetti sauce all the freaking time, so I thought I’d do another post just to show you how things have changed over the years, but they still remain in essence the same. For one, the Pie and I went vegetarian for a month when I made that post so there’s no meat in that sauce. For another, I was way lazier when it came to chopping things up, so my sauces were much chunkier. I like them a bit more uniform these days.

Spag Bol Redux 17

Some things stay the same, though: I always load it down with diced onions to start. I made a crapton (a metric measurement of course) of this so that I could freeze it so I can’t give you exact measurements. Just lots.

Spag Bol Redux 2

I always add diced red pepper (I’m allergic to green) and diced mushrooms. You can add whatever you wish, though. Sometimes I chuck in whatever’s in my fridge that needs to be used: avocadoes (they add a nice thickness the sauce), tomatoes, sometimes even carrots.

Spag Bol Redux 5

And then of course a variety of tomato-based canned items. I used to use jarred spaghetti sauce as my base but I found they were sneaking green peppers into the mix and it wasn’t doing my digestive system any good so I switched to canned crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and canned diced tomatoes.

Spag Bol Redux 1

First I start by sautéeing up the onions with olive oil and a little butter. I let them go until they’re smelly and soft. Then I pull apart a large hunk of lean or extra lean ground beef. I like to break it up with my fingers to ensure that there are no big chunks in the pot. You can also use ground turkey or pork or whatever works for you. If you’re going the veggie route and using TVP, add that last.

Spag Bol Redux 4

Spag Bol Redux 6

After the meat is browned to my satisfaction I tip in my vegetables, as well as some minced garlic, salt, pepper, and various spices.

Spag Bol Redux 8

I like a mix of italian spice plus extra basil.

Spag Bol Redux 9

I add in all my tomato things as well and give that a grand old stirring.

Spag Bol Redux 10

Let that simmer for at least half an hour so the flavours can mingle, and feel free to adjust the spices as you see fit. I like to let it simmer as long as I can, but it’s good either way.

Spag Bol Redux 11

Cool and freeze or serve hot on top of your favourite fresh pasta, baked into a pasta casserole, or glopped on top of bread as a sloppy joe!

Spag Bol Redux 20

Advertisements

Petite Piglet Patties

Petite Piglet Patties 14

I was going to call these things “savoury sausage sliders,” or even “summer savoury sausage sliders,” but then the Pie suggested the above title and for some reason I started to laugh so hard I needed a tissue and had to sit down.  And then he suggested that, since we used hot italian sausage meat, we call them “picante petite piglet patties” and I may have told him to shut up at that point.

Petite Piglet Patties 13

Anyway.  These are sliders, if you hadn’t gathered that by now.  I picked up a package of ground sausage meat the other day and this is what we did with it.  Basic ingredients are about 1lb ground pork, 1 egg, half a white onion, and some fresh summer savoury.

Petite Piglet Patties 2

Mince up the savoury and the onion and chuck them in a bowl with the sausage meat and the egg.  Season with salt and pepper.

Petite Piglet Patties 3

Give that a good stir with a spoon and then mix in about 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (or whatever kind of bread crumbs you have on hand).

Petite Piglet Patties 4

Form the goo into balls slightly larger than a golf ball but smaller than a cricket ball and flatten them into patties (I ended up with eleven patties).

Petite Piglet Patties 7

Fry those suckers up.  For some reason the light was such in my kitchen on this particular afternoon that it took us twelve tries (the Pie tried to help) of blurry patty photos before I gave up and used flash.

Petite Piglet Patties 11

While that’s on the go, why don’t you have yourself a salad, too?  Here we have a mixture of baby spinach, a small hunk of plain goat’s cheese (chevre), a handful of sliced almonds, another handful of dried cranberries, and a diced ripe pear.

Petite Piglet Patties 9

Then the dressing is 3 equal parts vegetable oil (I used almond, because we’re trying to use it up), rice vinegar, and orange juice).

Petite Piglet Patties 10

Toss it up!

Petite Piglet Patties 18

Top your sliders with whatever floats your boat.  I used mayo, tomatoes, avocado, and spinach.  The Pie voted for barbecue sauce and cheese.  We had them on some picnic buns I grabbed in the bakery section.

Petite Piglet Patties 8

All in all, a good summer meal. Don’t forget to eat your veggies! You see them peeking at you in the background? Don’t forget them!

Petite Piglet Patties 16

Quick-Fry Breakfast Sausage (Gluten-Free)

I’m trying out some of the neat settings on my new wee camera. This is one of the shots where I ventured out of Easy Auto Mode.  This is a big step for me, people.

Signal Hill at Night

And did you know my wee camera has a FOOD setting? No longer do I have to frantically compensate in post-production for the lack of light on this ocean-bound rock: I can do it all before I even take the picture! Awesome. And these shots don’t look half-bad, considering it was a cloudy morning.

Breakfast Patties

This recipe comes from Lexie’s Kitchen and I totally LOVE it.  Well actually, I didn’t end up using her recipe at all, but the idea was fantastic.  You know when you’re looking for a little something extra in the morning but you want something easy, and for once, you (gasp!) don’t want any bacon?

Breakfast Patties

Why not try a breakfast sausage patty?  These ones are made with lean ground pork, but you can make them with any ground meat (bonus points if you grind it yourself).  When Jul and Cait were here I made some with ground chicken, and added a bit of almond meal to improve the consistency.  I bet moose patties would be worthwhile trying. Some day I am going to figure out a nice gluten-free veggie patty. But today is not that day.

Breakfast Patties

So you take your pork and you plop it in a bowl.  Add some spices.  Or whatever.  I used some paprikaground garlicdried chives, and then some Worcestershire sauce and some sweet and spicy Tabasco.  Then I added a pinch of sea salt and a lot of black pepper.  Isn’t this grinder awesome?  Cait brought it for me.  You press its nose and it poos out pepper.  Moai pepper anyone?

Breakfast Patties

Stir all that goodness together.

Breakfast Patties

Then make yourself a bunch of wee patties.  Any size you like, really.  Just remember that the thinner they are the faster they cook up, and the harder they are to move around when raw.  I suggest spraying a sheet of waxed paper with cooking spray to hold your patties until you’re ready to cook.

Breakfast Patties

You can save yourself some time in the morning and make them the night before — just cover them with an additional sheet of sprayed waxed paper and chuck ’em in the fridge.

Breakfast Patties

The rest is really quite simple.  Plop the patties in a heated frying pan (non-stick works best) and cook for a few minutes, flipping once or twice, until they are done all the way through.

Breakfast Patties

My non-stick pan is so good that when I was flipping the patties, one of them *may* have accidentally taken a flying leap out of the pan and smashed itself to a million pieces on the floor. So Gren *may* have gotten a bit of extra breakfast this morning.

Breakfast Patties

We served ours with a bit of barbecue sauce, some eggs, and a big ol’ croissant.  But I’m sure what you have planned is also good.  Enjoy!

Breakfast Patties

Tofu Feature Month: Mapo Tofu

Mapo Tofu

I FINALLY found silken tofu in St. John’s.  I’ve been looking for it for what feels like forever.  In celebration of my recent discovery, and the Pie’s insistence that he needs to slim down in time for Kristopf’s wedding next July, I have decided to honour the long-standing request of my friend Danger K and start finding new ways to cook with tofu.  You might know Danger K: she recently got married (on our wedding anniversary, no less), and she and her husband planned a big fancy wedding by begging, bartering, and borrowing everything they could.  Their expenses out of pocket?  About two hundred bucks.  You can read about the process on their blog, Project Priceless.  So they’re a little bit famous back in Ottawa.  And I can say that I knew her when.  We went to high school together.  In fact, she had a huge crush on one of my brothers (DON’T DENY IT DANGER K I HAVE PROOF).  Not that I’m going to hold that against her or anything.

Mapo Tofu

So.  Cooking with tofu.

My previous experiences cooking with tofu (not in eating it, just cooking it) focused mainly on tossing cubes of it into Broccofu, Peanut Butter Spaghetti, or the occasional stir-fry.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but’s not using tofu in all its myriad manifestations.  This fall, the Pie and I aim to change our ways, and this recipe is the beginning.  September will be a sort of Tofu Feature Month.

Mapo doufu (mapo tofu) is a traditional spicy dish from the Sichuan province of China and involves sautéing tofu pieces in a suspension of a paste made of beans and chilis.  What I found particularly interesting about this dish is that I normally think of tofu as a protein-replacement for meat, but this recipe calls for a combination of tofu AND beef or pork.  Very unique (for me, at least).

Mapo Tofu

A note on substitutions:  this recipe calls for chili bean paste, a spicy gooey mixture of fermented soy beans and chilis (I’m thinking like a super-hot miso).  I didn’t have such a thing, so I used black bean paste instead with the chilis, which is why my sauce isn’t that signature reddish colour.  The recipe also requires the use of rice wine, which, not being a wine-drinker, I also don’t have, so we used rice wine vinegar instead.  Finally, the recipe I used made little sense and required some serious moderation, so I haven’t linked you to it.   I wasn’t a huge fan.

Start by making up enough rice for two people.

Mapo Tofu

Drain and pat dry one block soft tofu (I used extra-firm silken tofu because I wanted to see what it was like).  Cut it into 1″ cubes.

Mapo Tofu

Slice up 4-5 green onions and save about 1/4 of the green tips (sliced) for garnish.

Mapo Tofu

In a skillet or wok over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and sauté 4oz ground beef or pork until cooked.  Drain and set aside.

In the same pan, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.  Add 1 teaspoon minced ginger, the green onion that isn’t what you saved for garnish, 2 whole dried chilis, and 1 teaspoon ground peppercorns (Sichuan if you’ve got ’em).  Cook that for about a minute.

Mapo Tofu

Add the ground meat back in, as well as 3 tablespoons chili bean paste, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine, and 2 teaspoons brown sugar.  Cook that for another minute or so, just so everything can get acquainted.

Mapo Tofu

Add in the cubed tofu as well as 1/4 cup vegetable stock (or beef, or pork) and let that simmer for 15 minutes.   Stir occasionally, but don’t let the tofu fall apart.

Mapo Tofu

When it’s nearing done, dissolve 1 tablespoon corn starch in a little bit of water and pour that in as well.  Stir gently until it thickens.

Mapo Tofu

Serve over rice and garnish with the remaining green onions.  SPICY!

Mapo Tofu

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.

Gluten-Free Dog Treats

In honour of Ruby’s first birthday, Cait and I got together and concocted some fabulous dog biscuits for her and Gren.  Being a corgi and therefore very food-obsessed and prone to obesity, Gren only took home a few to try, but they were still enjoyed by all.  I even had one, as I won’t feed my dog anything I wouldn’t eat myself.

Ruby murders Gren

Fortunately, we were able to easily find a dog treat recipe online that conformed to our philosophy of feeding our dogs biologically appropriate food.  That means most definitely no corn, no wheat, and no soy, and none of those other things that people seem to think dogs need, like salt, sugar, and artificial flavours or colours.  This recipe from Sandra over at dog-nutrition-naturally.com totally fit the bill and was easy to do.  We tripled the recipe so that there would be plenty of birthday treats for everyone.

First, peel yourself a large sweet potato.  And I mean LARGE.  Cut that sucker up.

Plop the potato pieces in a pot and boil them silly until they’re mashable.  Then of course mash them.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and lightly brush a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.

In a large bowl, plop in 1lb ground meat.  We used extra lean ground beef, but you can use turkey, chicken, pork, or lamb — or really, whatever you want.

Add to that 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt) and a large egg.  Drop in 5 tablespoons large flake rolled oats as well, just for cohesion purposes.

Chuck in the mashed sweet potato and mix it well.

Spread it flat on the prepared cookie sheet and smooth the top.

Bake for about an hour.  The cookie will shrink and pull away from the sides.  Now you can score the cookie into smaller pieces, or use a cookie cutter to make fun shapes.  A pizza cutter is handy about now too.

Reduce the oven heat to 250°F and pop the cookies back into the oven for another hour or so to dry out.  Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.

Tada!  That’s it.  Now SIT.

Good dog.Make sure to store your treats in an airtight container, and of course remember that treats should never be used as a substitute for your dog’s regular diet.  Yum yum!

Japanesey Dinner with Doodle

Hooray!  It’s our 200th post!

I am fortunate to have three best friends (and yes, the superlative applies to all of them).  You’ve already met Cait and Chel, and now I would like to introduce you to Doodle (she’s not that fond of the nickname but she used to call me Poo so she’ll just have to suffer).

When she was home from Chicago for Christmas, she got her mother, who is Japanese, to teach her how to make gyoza, a crispy-fried dumpling, basically the Japanese version of a pot sticker.  With her new-found knowledge she came over to cook dinner for my parents and the Pie and myself.  And we were all so very glad she did.

For a very short person and a very tall person, Doodle and the Pie make a good cooking team.

To accompany the gyoza, Doodle decided on a simple green salad and miso soup, with rice on the side.

For the soup:

I’m sure you remember my earlier attempt at miso soup with an Atlantic flavour.  I can assure you that this is the real deal.

Start a pot of water boiling, with as much liquid as you will need to feed all your hungry mouths.

Grab yourself some miso.  This particular miso was made BY HAND by Doodle’s mother, so it was extra good.

Add the miso bit by bit to the boiling water, until you have achieved the desired consistency and taste. 

An important ingredient is dashi, a sort of fish powder.  Sorry my picture here is blurry.  Add a couple of shakes of that.

And some seaweed.   It’s amazing, considering what’s in this particular soup, that the Pie drank his all up in a jiffy.

Cube some tofu and add that in as well.

Doodle informs me that you can keep whatever tofu you don’t use right away in your refrigerator, as long as it’s submerged in clean water, which you will need to replace every day.  The more you know.

Keep adding things until it tastes good to you.

When you are ready to serve, pour your soup into bowls that will fit easily into your hand (miso soup is a good drinking soup) and garnish with chopped green onion.

For the salad:

On Doodle’s instructions I gathered equal amounts of broccoli, asparagus, and green beans, and chopped them into pieces manageable by chopstick.

Gently steam your vegetables in a pot of simmering water.

Drain and rinse the vegetables in cold water.

Dress with a mixture of soy sauce (Doodle’s mom prefers the sushi soy sauce for its sweetness), rice vinegar, sesame oil, and garlic powder, to taste.

For the dumplings:

This is Doodle chopping up Asian chives.  I’m sure any kind of chive is good.

She then added them to about half a red onion, chopped finely, in a bowl.

Add to that about a cup each of ground pork and lean ground beef.

Maybe a spoonful each of minced garlic and minced ginger.

Doodle then chopped up some green cabbage. Then she mulched the cabbage in a food processor.

Adding the cabbage to the meat and onions, she mixed it well with her hands.

Now comes the fun part.

On your workspace, place the bowl with the meat mixture and a spoon for scooping it up, a plate for the finished dumplings, and a small bowl of warm water.

For these dumplings you need the round dumpling wrappers.  Doodle tells me that the square ones don’t work as well, and, also, that the dumplings can be frozen and used later, though they are slightly more sticky when thawed.

Place a wrapper in the palm of your hand.  

Take a spoonful of meat mixture and place it in the centre of the wrapper.

Dip a finger from your other hand in the water and use it to draw a line around the edge of half the wrapper.

At the edge of the wrapper, where the wet line meets the dry wrapper, pinch the two sides together, just at the edge.  Then pull the rest of the wet side of the wrapper over slightly and pinch it onto the dry side, making a pleat. 

Continue until you reach the end, so that one side of your dumpling edge is smooth and the other is pleated.  This will make sure that the dumplings stay upright when they are cooked.  Make sure to seal the edges well, using more water if you have to, in order to ensure a good seal.

Keep doing this until you either run out of dumpling wrappers or filling material.  You can see that expert Doodle has created a plate of perfect dumplings.

This is the plate that the Pie and I made.  Not quite so perfect.  Of course after they were cooked you couldn’t tell the work of us newbs from that of the professional so it’s all good.

Now take a large non-stick frying pan with a lid that fits.  A wok won’t work because you need the bottom to be flat.

Put a few teaspoons of oil in the pan and heat it to medium-high.  Place your gyoza into the pan so they are all sitting upright and let them sizzle for a few minutes.

Fill a cup with water and add a teaspoon or two of flour.  Mix it well.

Pour the flour water into the bottom of the pan and cover the pan with the lid.

Let the dumplings cook like that until all the water is gone and the flour has formed a sort of crispy net on the bottom of the pan. 

Use chopsticks or a spatula to loosen the dumplings from the pan.

Place a plate on top of the dumplings.

Flip the pan so all the dumplings end up on the plate. Some may still end up in the pan.  Some may end up on your floor.  It’s anyone’s guess.

See how they’re all lovely and crispy brown?

Mix up some soy sauce and rice vinegar.

Pour it into a dipping bowl for your dumplings and serve everything with some rice.

Enjoy it thoroughly.

There was nothing left of this lovely repast, as you can see.  I can’t wait to do it again!