Chili Mushroom Bowls

And just like that summer is over, at least for the kids.  Off to school they went yesterday.  Summer seemed like a blur for all of us.  I am ready for autumn to arrive.  I am ready to say goodbye to the humidity and heat, which has been pretty bad this year.  Bring on the crisp days!

When I was food shopping with my daughter we found large portobello caps that looked like bowls.  Which gave me a fun idea.  Instead of bread bowls, why not mushroom bowls?

Chili bowl 1 2016

To fill the bowls I made a quick chili.  Normally you cook chili over a few hours but as this doesn’t have beans, this can be made in less than a half hour.  In a skillet heat up a tablespoon or two of olive oil and begin to saute a half pound of ground beef.

Chili bowl 2 2016

Chop about half a cup of red onion and a couple of cloves of garlic. Add that to the skillet.

Chili bowl 3 2016

After the onion starts to soften add a can of diced tomatoes (14oz) and bring to a simmer.  Begin to season with chili powder, cumin, and sea salt and pepper.  The beauty of this dish is you decide how much seasoning to put in.  Some like it hot and some don’t.  I would say the ratio of the chili powder to the cumin should be about 4:1.  As we like it hot I added a dollop of hot sauce that I made along with chopped bell pepper.

Chili bowl 4 2016

Mix well and cook the peppers for a few minutes.  Pre heat the oven to 400F/200C.  Fill the mushrooms with the chili mixture.

Chili bowl 5 2016

Top with shredded cheese and bake until the mushrooms are cooked.  You don’t want to cook the mushrooms so much that they collapse.

Chili bowl 6 2016

Top with sour cream and enjoy!  This is a very easy meal to through together on a weeknight.  And it’s a fun twist on the whole food for a bowl thing.

 

Leek and Bacon Burgers

When I started blogging I was nudged by a friend to just go ahead and do it.  Instead of just thinking about it and worrying whether it could be successful or not.  For a few months now I’ve been wondering about starting a YouTube channel.  Of course I have been trying to figure out if I could pull it off, what would I do, how would I do it, that sort of thing.

I’ve been inspired by Stéphane of My French Heaven who has started his channel.  He has already uploaded a few videos and he is doing a great job.  It’s a bit of a learning curve for me as I don’t have a Mac and we don’t use Windows.  So I found an open source video editor Kdenlive to try out.  I took a few videos to practice and boy did I feel silly!  It’s one thing to have in your head what you want to do and another to actually press record and do it.  So I’ll do a bit of practicing and see what I can sort out.  I have iMovie on my phone but that screen is too small for me and I don’t have enough space on my iPad.  Then I have to figure out camera set ups.  I think this could be fun, once I learn the ropes.

This past weekend was absolutely gorgeous so we did a lot of outdoor projects.  Which meant easy dinners was the name of the game.  My husband wanted burgers.  I wanted to do them with a twist.  For the actual burger I did the same ones as I did in my gourmet burgers.  Though instead of goat meat I used beef.

Leek Bacon Burger 1 2016

Instead of buns I bought large portobello caps to grill.  Just prep them with sea salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Set aside while you prep the burgers.  Slice about half a cup of leeks and a few button mushrooms.  Cut up a few rashers of streaky bacon.

Leek Bacon Burger 2 2016

Start cooking the bacon in a skillet.  Once it is half cooked add the mushrooms and leeks to the skillet.  While this is cooking grill the burgers and portobello caps.

Leek Bacon Burger 3 2016

Stack the burger on the mushroom caps, add goat cheese, and top with the leek and bacon mixture.

Leek Bacon Burger 4 2016

For this you can pick just about any cheese you like, my husband likes jarlsberg. You don’t need much more than this as it is quite filling.

Please let me know if you have a YouTube channel or any advice on having one.

Mini Meat Pies

When I was on my own years ago, I really didn’t cook for myself.  It was too much effort.  I’d get my cooking fix by having little parties for my friends.  Needless to say when I moved in with my husband and had the instant family, I loved being able to cook full meals and share food.  Just one of the many reasons I don’t miss the single life.

One dish I would occasionally make for myself would be mini meat pies.  They lend well to leftovers so in one go I would have several meals ready. I haven’t made them for years, forgotten about them to be honest.  These aren’t the traditional English meat pies with the hot water crust, though that is on my list to try soon.  We’ve been watching the Great British Bake Off and we’re hooked.

Meat pie 1 2015

I make up pastry equal to a 9 inch pie plate.  Which would be 1 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of butter, pinch of salt, and cold water.  I’ve started using butter instead of shortening as the flavour is much better.   Cover and set aside while you make up the filling.  If the room is warm put the pastry in the fridge.

Heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and start browning about a pound of ground beef.  Chop up half a red onion, a few cloves of garlic, and a couple of mushrooms.  Add those to the skillet.

Meat pie 2 2015

Chop up some fresh oregano and add that along with about 1/2 – 3/4 cup or so of crushed tomatoes.  The trick here is not to let it get watery or too saucy.  Also add 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar.

Meat pie 3 2015

Let this simmer while you roll out the pastry and fill a tin with large muffin holes.  I had to free hand this as I didn’t have a cutter or glass with a large enough aperture to give me a neat circle. So we got a bit rustic!  Use a slotted spoon to fill the pastry to prevent it from getting too wet.  Sprinkle a generous amount of shredded Italian cheeses.  Bake at 400F/200C for 20 minutes.

Meat pie 4 2015

I don’t know why it took me years to make this again.  But I won’t wait long to do it again as it is great for lunches as well.  And with tax season starting soon I’ll have to keep my energy up!

Tarragon Beef Stew to Keep You Warm

I think it is time to give up the ghost where the garden is concerned at this point.  With the exception of the hardy root veg and brussels sprouts we’re done and dusted.  A couple of weeks ago I managed to find some tarragon still green in the garden which reminded me of a recipe I had printed out from allrecipes.com a few years ago.  Looking at it again, I realised that I hadn’t followed it completely when I made it before.  For one, it had honey.  And a few other interesting things.  But it does have vermouth which works really well with tarragon.

I love beef stews, particularly with ale, but my husband sometimes finds them too heavy in flavour.  This stew has a lot of flavour without the heaviness.  A more refined rustic soup if that isn’t too much of an oxy moron!  

Terragon beef stew 1 2015

Dredge about a pound of stewing beef in flour and season it with sea salt and pepper.  In a saucepan melt 2 tablespoons of butter.  Brown the beef.  Chop a small red onion, 3-4 cloves of garlic, a carrot, and 2-3 mushrooms.  Add the veg to the beef and cook for a few minutes.

Terragon beef stew 2 2015

Cube 2-3 red potatoes depending on the size.  Add it to the saucepan.  Cook for a few minutes then add 4 cups of vegetable bouillon and bring to a simmer.  Add 1/2 cup of vermouth, 4 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce, a handful of tarragon, and a small spoonful of mustard.

Terragon beef stew 3 2015

Simmer for a few hours at low temperature until the beef is tender and the potatoes are cooked through.

Terragon beef stew 4 2015

Add some crusty bread and you’ll be warmed to your toes!  🙂

Tomato Garlic Beef Curry

There is a new Indian restaurant here in town.  We did make the mistake going on opening night.  We were getting cranky waiting for the food!  But once the food did arrive it was really good.  So I hope that they get things sorted because we would love to have a proper Indian restaurant in town.

I had ordered a spicy lamb curry with tomato, garlic and onion.  A slow cooked flavourful curry with a great balance of heat.  I had to recreate it.  I planned on doing that for my dad’s birthday but since plans got changed (for a good reason!) I decided to make it for the kids when they got back from FL as they both requested curry for dinner.  And they gave a thumbs up for adding spice.

Tomato beef curry 1 2015

This is a dish you want to slow cook, no short cuts on this on!  But other than the time it takes it is really simple.  Heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Season about a pound of stewing beef or lamb with sea salt and pepper.  Brown the meat on all sides.

Tomato beef curry 2 2015

Coarsely chop an onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic.  Add to the skillet.  We have been growing Ring O Fire peppers in our garden so I harvested a couple for this.  Start off with one pepper.  It’s a lot easier to add more heat than remove it.  Again, seeds increase the heat so use your judgement.

Tomato beef curry 3 2015

Saute for a few minutes to soften the onion then add a 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer.  Freshly grate about 1 – 2 inch/2.5-5cm piece of ginger, add to the skillet.  Chop a small handful of fresh cilantro.  Then season with sea salt and pepper, 1-2 teaspoons of garam masala, and a couple of tablespoons of red curry paste.

Tomato beef curry 4 2015

Cover and keep it on a low simmer for a few hours.  Stir occasionally so it doesn’t catch on the bottom.  Half way through cooking test the heat and if you want more add more hot pepper.  Adjust for the curry seasoning with the paste if needed as well.  Meanwhile, my husband made up some incredible naan for us to enjoy.  We thought the naan would be enough so I didn’t do up any rice.

Tomato beef curry 5 2015

I was really pleased with this, it tasted close to what I had at the restaurant.  It was hearty without being heavy.

Today is the first day of school for the kids.  Our daughter started high school and our son is starting middle school.  Wondering where time is going.  But to make it a fun day I’m making pavlova and and chicken cordon bleu.  Can’t wait to hear all the stories!

BBQ Burgers and Family Time

Every summer there is nearly a month when the kids are gone.  A bit hard on the parents but it means the kids are off on adventures.  They do a two week overnight camp and then we usually get them for a couple of days then they are off to Florida to see grandparents with their mother and stepfather.

While we get a break from the usual back and forth of getting the kids round we miss them like crazy.  We picked them up from camp Friday evening and they had so many stories to tell.  It was non stop and it was fabulous.  But they were looking forward to home cooked food.

Our daughter must have missed the kitchen as she made breakfast each morning this weekend and baked cookies.  Yesterday morning she kicked us out and set the table with flowers and candles.  She really loves going all out.

When we picked them up they mentioned they were sick of cheeseburgers.  Shoot, as that was what I was making for last night!  Our daughter said oh we love your burgers so that’s ok.  Phew!

It was time for something different so I thought I would make BBQ burgers.  Our poblanos are coming in and I wanted to use them.  Our garden has been a struggle this year but our peppers are doing us proud.  I see a lot of hot pepper jelly in our future.  Unfortunately we’ve used up all our Peach BBQ sauce I had made so I had to use, gasp, store bought.  Peaches are showing up in the shops now so it is on my list to make another batch.

BBQ Burgers 1 2015

I had a pound of ground beef which is more than enough for the four of us.  The only issue is it’s impossible to find decent buns that aren’t enormous.  So the buns tend to dwarf the burger.  I think a quarter pound of meat is more than enough but I think I’m in the minority in this country.  My husband and I went without the bun.  In a bowl add the meat.  Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic and add that with a few teaspoons of fresh thyme.  I didn’t have enough cheddar to do slices on top but I did have enough to grate for the actual burger.  The amount I added was about a quarter of the meat in volume.  Then add a few tablespoons of BBQ.  Mix well and form into patties.  Set aside.  Cook up several rashers of streaky bacon and set that aside as well.

BBQ Burgers 3 2015

My husband brought home some fresh corn yesterday.  So exciting!  I love having them grilled.  Very easy to do, just soak for about 20 minutes in water.  Then grill for 5 minutes on each side until cooked through.  When these were halfway cooked I added the burgers.

BBQ Burgers 2 2015

Once you flip them add sliced onion that have been prepped with olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and pepper.  Add the poblanos after deseeding them.  You want the peppers to blister a little but don’t go crazy.  You want to grill the onions so they have the grill marks but aren’t burnt. When the burgers are almost done add slices of cheddar or jarlsberg to the burgers to melt.

BBQ Burgers 4 2015

Layer with BBQ sauce, bacon, onion, and pepper.  Butter up that corn and enjoy!  My husband did up some sweet potato and regular potato chips (fries) to round out the meal.  I was stuffed.  I think a bun would have sent me over the edge.  I didn’t even have room for ice cream!

False Advertising with Spicy and Making a Curry

Back in the beginning of November we went to Sway in Austin and had the most amazing Jungle Curry.  It was spicy!  Spicy with loads of flavour and I wanted to try to recreate it.  In “The Complete Asian Cookbook” by Charmaine Solomon there is a recipe for Kaeng Masaman or Muslim Curry and was classified as a very spicy curry.  Ooh, I thought, maybe this could be close to the curry from Sway.  Hmmm not so much.  The flavour was really good but I had to spike it quite a bit at the end of cooking to get some spiciness.

First up was to make the curry paste.  Given what I had in my pantry I used already ground spices, except the cardamom pods.  The only two ingredients I didn’t have was mace and shrimp paste.  And because it is hard to find galangal I substituted ginger.

In a small bowl mix 2 tsp of chilli powder (I do wonder if the book had an error and should be 2 tablespoons), 2 Tablespoons of ground coriander, 1 tsp cumin, and 1 tsp ground cinnamon.  Set aside.

Muslim Curry 1 2015

In a small skillet heat up 5 cardamom pods without any oil.  Shake the pan so the pods don’t burn.  You want them to be golden brown.  Grind them finely in a spice grinder.

Muslim Curry 2 2015

In a skillet saute 1 1/2 cup of chopped onion in olive oil.  Once softened add 5-6 finely chopped garlic cloves.

Muslim Curry 3 2015

Place in a food processor.  Add about an inch or so of ginger, coarsely chopped, and about an inch of sliced lemongrass.

Muslim Curry 4 2015

Pulse until it becomes a paste.

Muslim Curry 5 2015

Add the spices and pulse to blend.

Muslim Curry 6 2015

Cover and chill for a few hours to let the flavours blend.

When it’s time to make the curry gather the ingredients together.  The one thing I don’t have access to is tamarind pulp.  So I left that out.  The rest is pretty easy.  In a large skillet bring cubed beef, 14 oz of coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of fish or oyster sauce, 15 cardamom pods, and a few dashes of ground cinnamon to a boil.  Then lower to a simmer.  Cook until the meat is cooked and tender.  The book did mention that you shouldn’t cover the skillet because it will cause the coconut milk to curdle.

Muslim Curry 7 2015

Remove the cardamom pods when the beef is cooked.  That way it won’t get confused with the peanuts!  Stir in a large handful of roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped.  Add all the curry paste you made earlier with 2 tablespoons of lime juice.

At this point, I tasted for spiciness.  I was already to be blown away but it was very mild!  So I added more chilli powder but not wanting that to be a dominating flavour I also added red pepper flakes until I got some heat.  The flakes are great because they don’t overwhelm the rest of the dish but brings the heat.

Muslim Curry 8 2015

Garnish with some peanuts and cilantro.  While this wasn’t close enough to the jungle curry it was a really nice curry.  And it showed me that making homemade curry paste isn’t overly difficult.  So I’ll be playing around with the flavours for my own paste.  🙂

 

Roasted Beets with Burgers

I know a lot of us who blog have figured out the balance of healthy delicious food with budget.  And I don’t think it is that difficult to do.  But very often in cooking competitions there is invariably a challenge that involves cooking on a budget. Time and again the reaction is it’s impossible to get flavour on a budget.

For example, I am watching season 4 of Top Chef which I believe aired about 6 years ago.  They were given a challenge of cooking a healthy delicious meal with a budget of $10 for a family of four.  You might as well have told them to climb Mount Everest!  I don’t understand the disconnect for a lot of people when it comes to this balance.

Given that our food budget is about $150 a week which includes things like kitchen roll, soap, etc, I need to be creative with the dishes.  We actually do pretty well during the summer because of our veg garden but it gets a little tricky in the winter.  I sometimes skate over the line.  The big budget buster is meat, especially if it is important to buy local, humanely raised meat.  It just goes back to portion control.  I’ll take a breast of chicken and use it for the four of us.  And it’s plenty.

I also try to use an ingredient a few different ways during the week.  This week it’s beets.  I had some bacon fat left over from the chicken avocado dish I made so I thought I would roast them.  I had half a pound of ground beef leftover so it was perfect for two burgers for my husband and I.  To round it of I bought 2 large portabello mushroom caps.  When I was doing research into the Paleo diet I was so overwhelmed by all the books on this subject, it was insane. I saw in one book a suggestion to use the mushroom as the base to a burger. I cannot remember which book it was though. I looked at about 30 of them!

This is an inexpensive easy dish to make even with the grass fed beef.  I kept the burgers simple and used garlic chives and thyme from the garden.

Roasted beet burgers 1 2014

I chopped up the thyme and chives with a couple of cloves of garlic. I mixed them with the beef and a dollop of stone ground mustard.  Season with salt and pepper.

Roasted beet burgers 2 2014

Set this aside.  Peel and slice the beets about 1/4″ thick.  Beets are so messy!  Getting the stain out of my fingers is such a pain.

Roasted beet burgers 3 2014

Set the oven to 400F/200C and place the baking dish with a couple of tablespoons of bacon fat.  Allow it to melt then add the beets with salt and pepper to taste.  Roast until they are tender.  In the meantime, form the beef into patties.

Roasted beet burgers 4 2014

Drizzle the mushrooms with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Grill the burgers and mushrooms.  Be careful not to grill the mushrooms so much that they aren’t firm anymore.  Place the mushrooms on the plate and top with the burger.  Spread goat cheese on the burger then place the beets on the cheese.

Roasted beet burgers 5 2014

I’m not a fan of beets but the bacon fat helps.  🙂  Of course after I did the photos and cut into the dish I thought I should have added some greens on top for presentation.  Too late at that point!

Giving Cornish Pasties a Try…

When we had our family get together a few weeks ago my dad was telling me about someone he knows being confused about how to pronounce Cornish Pasty.  This person would insist on pronouncing it pasty as in paste.  We had a good laugh about that, I asked if dad had explained that pronunciation required dollar bills!

As I did research on recipes for Cornish Pasties I realised that in 2011 it was given a PGI similar to Chianti or Parmesan cheese.  So I went to the official site for a Cornish Pasty to find out how to make these.

I’m not sure how stringent they are in protecting the Cornish Pasty because I have had several in the UK, many variations which include peas or carrots, different ways of doing the beef, etc.  I followed their way as closely as I could.  I’ll show what the actual recipe says and what I did based on the ingredients I had.

For the pastry:

500g strong bread flour (I used our all purpose flour)

120g white shortening

25g cake margarine (I used butter)

5g salt

175g cold water

Cornish pasty 1 2014

Combine all the ingredients into a bowl and mix until the water is incorporated.  Tip out onto the counter.  This will be very crumbly.

Cornish pasty 2 2014

Knead the dough together to incorporate the shortening and butter.  This will be a stiff dough.

Cornish pasty 3 2014

Cover and place in the fridge for 3 hours.  I only was able to have it in there for 2 but it came out well.

For the filling:

450g skirt steak (I had about 390g)

450g potato (they said to use waxy potatoes but I used what we had on hand and used our freshly harvested red potatoes.  Also, to keep the ratio of the filling intact I used about 390g of potato)

250g swede (rutabaga)

200g of onion

Cornish pasty 4 2014

Chop the steak onion into 1/2″ cubes.  Chop the swede and potato into 1/4″ cubes.  Season well with salt and pepper.  The recipe says to have a 2:1 ratio of salt and pepper.

Cornish pasty 5 2014

Preheat the oven to 410F/210C

Divide the pastry into four portions.  Roll out thinly and spoon the filling into the centre.  I found that 1 1/2 cup of filling was as much as the pastry could hold.  Add two dollops of butter.

Cornish pasty 6 2014

Fold over the pastry and roll crimp from one side round to the other side.  Put a few slits in the top.

Cornish pasty 7 2014

One step I forgot was to brush milk over the pastry before baking.  Bake for an hour until golden brown.

Cornish pasty 8 2014

I did find a disconnect between the amount of pastry they say to make and the filling.  I had about a third of the filling leftover and it was reduced based on what I had.  When I make this again I will reduce the filling even more.

We all enjoyed it and I loved the simplicity of the recipe.  And I have to get to Cornwall and see what the real thing is because it looks like I haven’t bought real ones yet!

 

The Lovely Zing of Fresh Horseradish…

The fun thing about our local co-op is we can find unusual ingredients not normally found in our box store groceries.  This time I found fresh horseradish root. As we are fans of this ingredient when we have roast beef I figured I would branch out a bit and play around with it.  If you ever have stuffed sinuses have a bite of fresh horseradish.  It will make you stand up and blink!

I planned an easy dinner to make because our plan was to whack some tennis balls back and forth.  But it rained.  Boo.  Now that is is finely warm enough we were looking forward to running around and having some fun.  That will have to wait.

I decided to do grilled portobello caps with steak and horseradish sauce.

Horseradish sauce 1 2014

Oregano is growing like crazy in our garden so I choice to use some to pretend I was making some kind of dent in the abundance of the herb.  I made up a marinade of olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, chopped garlic and oregano.  The ratio of oil and vinegar is 2 to 1. Season with salt and pepper.  Mix well and add the mushrooms.

Horseradish 2 2014

Set aside.  On to the horseradish!

Horseradish sauce 3 2014

I had some plain Greek yoghurt so I used it as the base for my sauce.  In a small bowl add 8 oz of yoghurt, about 2 tsp of fresh thyme, salt and pepper, a few squirts of lemon juice, and grated horseradish.  The amount is up to you depending on how much zing you want.  I do suggest adding a bit at a time until you hit the level of heat you want.

Horseradish sauce 4 2014

When I bought the steak, the way it was packaged it looked like two equal pieces which is what you want when serving two people.  Does this look equal to you?

Horseradish sauce 5 2014

Like the moon to the earth!  Season with salt and pepper and a dry rub of your choice.  We like using the Salt Lick Spicy Dry Rub.  Grill the steak and mushroom until cooked.  We like ours on the rare side.

Horseradish sauce 7 2014

After letting the steak rest slice it and spoon the sauce over the meat to serve.  Grate an aged Italian cheese of your choice over the mushrooms.

Horseradish sauce 8 2014

A perfect meal for after an activity like tennis.  I hope we get to that soon!  Maybe this weekend.  🙂