Creole Okra with Chicken and Tomatoes

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I don’t really know that much about southern food except that I like it a lot, and whenever I’m down south (I’m talking the southern US states here) I eat as much of it as I can. This dish started because I found okra at a good price at the grocery store and is more Creole-inspired than actually authentic (because again I don’t know much). It is adapted from something I found on The Kitchn. I doubled the amounts, prepared half this recipe in the pan and then chucked half of it in the freezer for later, like the clever person that I am†. Not that this recipe isn’t dead simple. I’m just lazy.

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I accompanied this one-dish meal with another dish: steamed beet greens.

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Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Zest 1 lemon.

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Gather your spices. Creole spice blends tend to run to mixtures of the following, so make one to suit your own taste (this one is about 1 teaspoon of each): onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, parsley, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne. The recipe I was looking at didn’t use creole spices; instead it called for a bit of cumin and coriander. So I just used everything. Set that aside for a few minutes.

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Start with your okra, about 1lb, and slice the tops off before cutting it in half lengthwise. Apparently people either love or hate okra, because it’s a bit slimy. I am ambivalent so far.

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Lay that on your baking sheet and sprinkle with about 1 cup (canned/drained/rinsed) black-eyed peas.

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Next, slice up a small white onion.

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Sprinkle that onto the pan, together with a few cloves crushed or minced garlic.

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Give that a good drizzle with some nice olive oil.

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Now here’s where I kind of diverged from the recipe. This dish is a good meal all in itself as a vegetarian option, but I feed boys (boys who are not vegetarians) so I had to chuck some meat in here somehow. In a large bowl, I threw 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs together with a 14oz can of diced tomatoes and your lemon zest.

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Then I chucked in all those lovely spices and gave it a good mixing.

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Spread the chicken and tomatoes evenly across the top of your peas and okra and shove it in the oven for about an hour. Give it a stir once or twice to make sure everything is browning evenly.

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We served ours over rice with the beet greens and it was pretty good. The Pie thought the okra was a little slimy (#1 reason why many people dislike it) but I thought it was pretty good!

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If you plan to freeze this recipe for later, I would recommend freezing it in two parts: in one bag goes the okra, peas, garlic, rice, and oil, and in the second bag goes the tomatoes, chicken, and spices. It just seems like a logical thing to do to tenderize the meat and prevent the peas and okra from getting too soggy.

Fast Tip Friday: Fancy Dip, Freaking Fast!

Garlic Herb Dip 4

You want the best dip ever, and you want to make it fast? Well have I got a solution for you! Granted, its speed is based on the fact that you have a herb garden handy, as well as some frozen pucks of puréed garlic. But if you have been visiting Ali Does It for a while then I expect that you would have both of those things already.

Garlic Herb Dip 1

So go out and grab a bunch of your herbs. Like, a BUNCH. I have some basil, parsley, lemon thyme, sage, and a million chives and garlic chives. Mince those into a bowl with your thawed garlic puck, and add a little salt and pepper to taste. Tip in a 500mL container of plain Greek Yogurt. Stir. That’s it!

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Greek Baked Eggs

Baked Eggs 14My brother and I take turns hosting a family brunch every second Sunday, and because both of our families are on tight schedules on Sundays (us with getting Gren exercised and tired prior to the brunch, and them with getting the General up and ready to go in time), it makes sense to prepare dishes that can be made ahead of time, or that can be cooked all at once, and also dishes that don’t require constant presence in the kitchen when we should be paying attention to the interactions between corgi and toddler. This one from Salted and Styled requires some focus and prior preparation but it’s very quick so you’re not in the kitchen for very long. The original recipe worked for 5 servings, but I upped mine to 8 so the measurements are approximate. Go with what looks good to you. Baked Eggs 2

Start by cracking however many eggs you want into individual bowls. You’ll need to pour these quickly later so that’s why you’re doing this. Grab as well some fresh herbs from the garden: parsley, thyme, and oregano. I bet some sage would be tasty as well, and if you wanted to alter the flavour a little then you could maybe do a sage-savoury-chives combo or something like that. Chop up the herbs and set them aside for a minute. Grab a few handfuls of feta cheese and crumble that up as well.

Baked Eggs 4Grab as well a handful of Kalamata olives, and chop those up (after removing the pits). Mix that with a little bit of minced garlic and some salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt though, as the olives and the feta are both pretty salty in their own right.Baked Eggs 5

Now preheat your broiler and grab a large cast-iron skillet or wide, shallow baking dish. Dollop some butter in there as well as a few drops of heavy cream.

Baked Eggs 6Heat the butter and cream either under the broiler or on the stovetop until bubbly. Baked Eggs 7

Then working very quickly, slide in all your eggs.

Baked Eggs 8Sprinkle with your herbs and olives. Baked Eggs 9

Top with feta.

Baked Eggs 10Shove that under the broiler until the eggs are cooked to your satisfaction (runny or hard, it’s up to you) – probably less than 5 minutes. Baked Eggs 13

Serve straight from the pan with some buttered toast as a plate or for sopping up your yolks. Mmm!

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Five-Minute Frittata, for Two

This is my favourite quick dinner when you want something a little bit better than a cold bowl of cereal but you want to apply pretty much the same level of effort. This dish serves two but I was so hungry after all my efforts in the garden that I ate the whole thing myself.

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First I grabbed some fresh herbs out of said garden. Then I preheated my oven to broil and grabbed an oven-safe nonstick skillet. Nonstick works best for this particular eggy dish, but you have to make sure that it has been approved for use in the oven so you don’t end up killing yourself with chemicals or burning the handle off.

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I chopped up the herbs.

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Then I grabbed a tomato and chopped and de-seeded it as well.

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Now you can start heating up your skillet, with a nice big pat of butter in it to melt.

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Then I cracked 4 eggs into a bowl. I proceeded to beat the crap out of them.

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Add in a big dollop of sour cream. You can use milk or cream but I have recently discovered that sour cream in eggs makes them light and fluffy and flavourful so I like using it.

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Then I poured the mixed eggs into the hot skillet.

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Let that sit for a moment.

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Then start pulling the egg away from the bottom of the skillet. You’re not really stirring the egg, so much as exposing more of the raw stuff to a hot cooking surface.

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Stop scraping before all the wet stuff is scrambled.

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Now you can top it with all the goodness you’ve prepared. This is salt, pepper, chopped herbs, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese.

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And then go ahead and shove it under the broiler for about two minutes, until all the wet egg is now solid. Please don’t judge me for my dirty oven.

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You can see I actually overdid this one a little bit.

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Then you hold the pan over a plate and start to slowly tip it so the whole thing starts to slide out.

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Keeeeeep sliding.

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When you’re about halfway out, lift the pan so that the second half of the egg flips over and covers the first half.

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Top with more pepper and garnish if you like.

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As I said, you can cut this in two and share it. Or if you’re really hungry it makes a great meal for one!

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Sausage Rolls

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I made these for our end-of-the-year softball team potluck, and despite me making four dozen of them, they were gone within five minutes of opening up the container. I’ve never made sausage rolls before, but I do love them, so it was easy to figure out what should go in them. I will definitely make them again, and probably tweak what I throw in, just for variety’s sake – you should, too!

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I started by chopping up a bunch of end-of-season herbs from my garden: a bit of sage, parsley, and chives. There is probably about 1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs here.

Sausage Rolls 1

Then I chopped up 1 package white mushrooms, about 3 cups minced. Ordinarily I’d probably mince up 1 large onion and do half onion, half mushroom, but one of the potluck attendees is allergic to onions so I left it out.

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Then grab some (500g) uncooked sausages. These are a little on the spicy side, but nothing too crazy.

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Slice through the casing and remove the meat.

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Chuck the sausage meat in a bowl together with your herbs, the mushrooms and onions (if you used onions and/or mushrooms), 2 large eggs, 2 tablespoons minced garlic, and about 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs. Feel free to season with salt and pepper as well. It turned out that I had bought pre-seasoned panko so I didn’t bother.

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Mix the sausage up thoroughly with the other ingredients. I found it was easier (if more disgusting) to use my hands, but you could probably get away with doing this in the bowl of a stand mixer as well.

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Now, remove from the fridge that package of puff pastry sheets that has been defrosting in there overnight.  Slice each sheet into three equal strips.

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Grab some mustard. I bought this fancy Tarragon Dijon stuff and I don’t regret it.

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Brush a line of mustard down the length of each strip of puff pastry.

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Evenly distribute all your sausage meat on top of your mustard line on each strip.

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Bring the edges of each strip of pastry together to seal the meat into a long tube. You may have to stretch the pastry a bit to do this, depending on how full it is.

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Shove your sausage tubes into the freezer for 15-20 minutes to firm up the dough and the meat and make it easier for you to slice them. You can preheat your oven now, to about 425°F. My oven cooks a little hotter (you’ll notice the finished ones are slightly charred on the bottom) so feel free to reduce the heat to whatever you need to if you have the same problem.

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Slice the now-firm tubes into 8 equal pieces – this will give you 48 sausage rolls.

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Bake the rolls for 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and puffy and the sausage is cooked through.

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Allow them to cool slightly before you stuff them all in your face. I don’t know how long they will last after baking them, in terms of storage, because I never got the chance to find out.

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Punchy Potato Salad

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With potato salad, like most salads, you can wing it more often than not and it turns out great.  It does help, however, to have a general idea of what sort of flavour theme you want to have ahead of time.  For this one I wanted something creamy but also with enough greenery and fresh things in it I didn’t feel like it was coming straight from a plastic grocery store container.

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I started off by washing and chopping 13 medium sized potatoes.  I like to leave the skins on.

Punchy Potato Salad 1

I then boiled them until they were quite soft.

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Then I hard-boiled 6 large eggs by putting them in a pot of water with a dash of vinegar (the vinegar makes the shells easier to remove) and bringing it to a boil; then I turned the water off and left them for 20 minutes.

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I drained the potatoes and chucked them in a large bowl together with about 3 stalks minced celery.  Then I grabbed a handful of herbs from the garden and minced those as well: dill, chives, parsley, green basil, and purple basil.

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Into the bowl.

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Some chopped baby dill pickles too.

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And of course the eggs, which I peeled and chopped coarsely.

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The dressing was simple: Dijon mustard, Wafu’s sesame dressing, and some aioli I picked up at the grocery store (instead of standard mayonnaise).

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A little black pepper never hurt.

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Mix that all together.

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Oh the creamy, dill-y goodness!

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Fancy Baby Meatloaf

Fancy Wee Meatloaf 15

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.

Fancy Wee Meatloaf 3

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.

Fancy Wee Meatloaf 1

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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… Squasage?

Squasage 23

I did not name this, for the record.  When I was looking up basic cooking times on the internet, I found one for sausage-stuffed squash that was entitled “Squasage” and now I can’t get it out of my head.  Sorry about that.

Anyway, I had this squash (I think it’s a kabocha?) that needed eating and this is what I decided to do with it — it makes a nice winter meal for two.

Squasage 1

Preheat your oven to 400°F and cut your squash in half.  I use a grapefruit spoon to remove the seeds — it’s easier that way.

Squasage 2

Place the squash cut-side-up on a baking dish or in a roasting pan and brush with olive oil.  Dust with salt and pepper and roast for about an hour, until you can poke it all over with a fork with little resistance.

Squasage 3

In the meantime, rinse and drain 1/2 cup quinoa.  This is red quinoa.

Squasage 4

Dump the quinoa in a small pot with 1 cup broth (your choice) and bring to a boil.

Squasage 5

Lower the heat, cover it, and let it simmer until the broth is all absorbed.  It’ll look all fluffy with little white tails like this when it’s done, after about 15 minutes.

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You’ll also want to chop up some veg, about half an onion and half a red pepper.  Or a whole pepper.  Up to you.

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I had three Italian sausages here, but you can use two as well.

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Slice open the casing and dump the contents into a bowl.

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Heat up some olive oil in a pan and start sautéing your onions.

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When they’re soft and translucent, add your sausage and break it up with a spoon while it cooks.

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When it’s cooked completely, add in your red pepper and some herbs.  I used fines herbes, a combination of things like parsley, chervil, marjoram, and chives.

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Stir that around for a bit until the red pepper is softer.

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Then you can dump in the quinoa and lower the heat just to keep the whole thing warm until the squash is ready.

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In a small bowl, dump in a few teaspoons panko bread crumbs and a little bit of grated cheese (your choice).  Mix that together.

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When the squash is ready, lower the oven heat to 350°F and start spooning the sausage mixture into your squash halves.  You may end up with leftover mix, but it makes a great lunch the next day.

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When the squash halves are holding as much as they can, sprinkle the cheese/panko mix over the top and chuck it back in the oven for about 15 minutes, until everything is thoroughly warm, the cheese is melted, and the bread crumbs are starting to brown.

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The result is an all-in-one, piping hot meal.

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We did find it easier to tip out the contents and scrape out the softened squash before mixing it all together and eating it.  It was less molten that way.

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Slow Cooker Dip Week: Bacon Cheeseburger

As a thank you for babysitting Ruby one weekend, Cait gave me these three wee 1.4 qt crock pots as a wee present.

Dips Week 1

Apparently Ruby is more evil than she looks.

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For our annual potluck, the Pie and I decided to make three hot dips and have them with crackers and vegetables for people to snack on while they waited for the rest of the food our guests to arrive.  As with all slow cooker meals, the prep pictures look prettier than the final shots, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that they’re well worth eating — so worth eating, I’m giving each dip its own post this week.  Today we’re making BACON CHEESEBURGER DIP.   This recipe is adapted from Betty Crocker.

Start with 8 slices of your favourite bacon.

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Cook those up nice and crispy, then drain them on a paper towel.  When they’re cool enough, crumble them up with your fingers.  Save a few tablespoons for garnish later on.

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Then, with your pan still hot (and redolent of bacon), chuck in 1/2lb lean ground beef and cook that stuff up until it’s no longer pink.  Drain that sucker.

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Chuck the ground beef and your crumbled bacon into your 1.4qt slow cooker.  Turn it on to low.

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Grate up 1 cup cheddar cheese and chuck that in, as well as a 10oz can diced tomatoes, juice included.

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Cube up 1 8oz package plain cream cheese and add that in as well.

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Cover and cook for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, until everything is hot and bubbly and melted together.

Slice up a few handfuls parsley and chuck that in for colour.

Dips Week 25

We also sliced up some bell peppers for dippin’.  And crackers too.

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Garnish with your remaining crumbled bacon and serve (it’s the one on the left).  Stay tuned for the rest!

Dips Week 32

Brussels Sprout Hash

Brussells Sprout Hash 8

This recipe comes from the Globe and Mail‘s 12 October food page, and worked really well as a side dish for our Thanksgiving celebrations.  And it’s easy peasy and a great way to jazz up Brussels sprouts for those picky eaters.

Brussells Sprout Hash 4

Cut about 8oz Brussels sprouts in half and remove the crappy outside leaves.  Set those aside for the moment.  Now, dump 6 large shallots and 8 garlic cloves into a pot (we doubled the recipe here).  Don’t even bother to peel them.

Brussells Sprout Hash 1

Add water and bring them to a boil.  Let that cook for 2 minutes, then drain them and peel them all.

Brussells Sprout Hash 2

Cut the shallots in half if they’re giants.

Brussells Sprout Hash 3

Chuck a nob of butter and a glob of vegetable oil into a heavy lidded sauté pan and let that melt over medium heat.

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Toss in the garlic and shallots and stir for about a minute, then add in the Brussels sprouts and chuck them around.  Reduce the heat a bit and pop the lid on.  Leave that on the go, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes, or until the veggies are tender to your liking.

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When you’re ready to serve, toss with salt and pepper and a generous helping of chopped fresh parsley and let ‘er rip!

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