Monday, September 27, 2010

Hunkering Down for Winter Part 2: Your Very Own Tomato Sauce

Ok, so since it never stops raining in Ottawa these days, and since there's no denying that its officially Fall (check the calendar and then come and find me - we'll pout together) it's time for another installment of Hunkering Down for Winter.

So my man-friend was away this past weekend which left me with wondering what to do with all of my newly discovered free time. Of course, I turned to my good friend the kitchen.

Tomato sauce is honestly and sincerely way easier to make than you think it is. Way easier. Also, the ingredient list is very short too. This is certainly something you can whip up right when you want it, no need to prepare it ahead of time. I just like to have a few cups on hand in the freezer.

Your Very Own Tomato Sauce
2 cans (28oz) of stewed, diced or crushed tomatoes (San Marzano are yummy, but whatevers cheapest works too)
2 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, roughly diced
2-3 tsp of honey (or more or less to taste)
2 tbsp olive oil
s&p to taste
chili flakes (optional)

1. Heat a dutch oven over medium heat, and add the oil and chili flakes.
2. Throw in your onions, and let them sweat for 3-5 minutes.
3. Add in the celery, carrots and garlic. Let this work for another 5-7 minutes.
4. Add in your tomatoes and mix everything up well. If you used stewed tomatoes, or diced tomatoes crush them against the side of the pot with your wooden spoon. Do not break your spoon like I did (RIP favourite wooden spoon, RIP).  Don't get bent out of shape if you can't get the consistency you want, you're going to buzz it in the blender after anyways.

5. Let all of this bubble for at least 5 minutes, or if you're preparing it ahead of time let it simmer as long as you have.
6. Once its done simmering, buzz it in the blender. 


If you're eating it now, add any other herbs or spices you might want (oregano, or basil are nice). If you're squirreling it away, let it cool completely divide it up in to 2 cup portions and put it in the freezer.

This is the base to any number of recipes: spaghetti sauce, meatballs and sauce, chili, tomato soup, stew.

If you want to make lots, this recipe doubles well.

Happy Eating!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fall Dinner (and left overs) for Two: A Fall Stirfry

As evidenced by the cooler weather, and seemingly unending rain, fall is most definately upon us. I don't know about you, but I'm enjoying it. Its nice to get back in to a routine, after weekend upon weekend of activity that was the Summer this year.

Today, I've got a yummy fall weeknight dinner for you. It comes together in about half an hour, and its pretty friendly on your pocket book too.

Fall Stirfry
1 small onion, chopped
2 carrots, washed and sliced 
2 potatoes, washed and sliced (you can use sweet potatoes if you want, I’ve used one of each) 
2 apples, washed and chopped
2 ribs celery, washed and sliced
½ blub fennel, washed and sliced (If you've never eaten it before, you should, its delicious!)
1 package of dinner sausages (honey garlic, bratwurst or Oktoberfest work nicely – maple flavoured breakfast sausages would also be nice)
½ c. apple juice or apple cider
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
½ tsp. Rosemary
½ tsp. Thyme
½ tsp. Fennel Seed, crushed
1 inch knob of ginger, grated
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large sauté pan, or electric frying pan, sauté the sausages over medium heat until they’re cooked through. Set them aside.

Have a look at your pan and decide if there are enough drippings to cook up your vegetables, or no. If not, add a bit of butter or canola oil. Then throw in your vegetables, and stir them around to make sure they all get a bit of drippings / butter / oil love. Add the rosemary, thyme, fennel seed, ginger and garlic at this time too. Let cook covered, for about 10 minutes, or until things start to get tender. In the meantime, slice up your sausages.

Once your vegetables are about ¾ of the way cooked, add your sausage back to the pan. Deglaze the pan with your vinegar (it will help lift all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan – the brown bits are the extra tasty parts, and you want them incorporated in the dish – really you do). This will steam a fair bit. Make sure you get your hand out of the way. Next, add in your apple juice and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pan again, and cook for another 5-10 minutes.

It should be done now. Check the taste and add a bit more salt and pepper if necessary. This is delicious with some bread and butter.

This dinner will cost you between $7 and $10 depending on where you source your ingredients, and if you get them on sale like I did. For two people, that's between $3.50 and $5 a serving. This will probably feed 4 for dinner, at $10 for the meal, thats an average of $2.50 a person. Not too shabby if you ask me!

Leftovers are good for lunch. This is the type of dish that gets better as it sits as the ingredients soak up the juices.

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hunkering Down for Winter Part One - Meatball-o-rama!

It’s the last week of Summer. Well, maybe not officially, I guess fall doesn’t officially start until somewhere around the 20th, but we’re already September, and Labour Day is behind us , and for me that's the first loud signal of fall. I might be well past my school years, but I think I’m still running on that calendar. The past weekend was Labour Day weeknd, the last long weekend of Summer and while most people were escaping the city for one more day at the beach, or one more weekend at the cottage, we used the weekend to unpack the last of the boxes (urrrmmm, we moved last October...) and to start thinking about how we can use the long weekend to stock the freezer for the fall and winter months ahead. Some people may think I’m crazy but I really prefer the fall and winter, and I like to get ready for them by stocking my freezer so that I’m prepared for whatever may come.

On my list so far are meatballs, tomato sauce (not to be confused with spaghetti sauce), and chicken stock. I’ll make these over the next few weeks, and I’ll probably take another weekend later this fall and make Chili, Spaghetti Sauce and maybe stew. Today’s post is about meatballs.

As a kid, I hated hamburger. Just ask my mom - picture this, toddler Erin (who incidentally looks exactly like adult Erin, but just smaller), sitting in her highchair, eating spaghetti or maybe lasagna, but spitting out the crumbled hamburger...true story. Another true story - I didn’t willingly eat a hamburger until I was probably 17. It’s still not my favorite meat, but it is versatile, inexpensive, and when prepared well, it has the potential to be quite tasty. For most recipes calling for ground meat, I use ground turkey. I really prefer it, it makes meals lighter and easily takes on the flavour of whatever you’re cooking it in. However, meatballs are another story. Meatballs need beef.

Meatballs aren’t just for eating with spaghetti either. Although, meatballs and spaghetti is a delicious meal. At our house we use these little nuggets of yumminess as the basis for a number of meals: meatballs with Diana Sauce and fried rice, meatball casserole, meatballs and tomato sauce with garlic bread, meatball subs, etc. No need to worry, these recipes will make appearances over the winter.

So here it is, my recipe for:

Copious Amounts of Meatballs...
2/3 Club Pack of Lean Ground Beef (you can use the other 1/3 for a lasagna like I did), or two to three regular sized packages
2c. Breadcrumbs*
2 large Carrots
2 medium Onions
3 ribs of Celery
1/2 green pepper
4 Cloves Garlic
4 Eggs
1/2 shot glass Worcestershire sauce (I really used a shot glass)
1 tbsp honey mustard
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chili flakes

*But Erin, I don’t have any bread crumbs, you say? Well - do you have bread? Yes? Then you can have bread crumbs in a few minutes. Take a few pieces of bread (doesn’t matter if its white, brown, multigrain or rye - all are good, but a stronger bread will alter the flavour of your dish a bit), the crustier, the better, and pop it in the oven at 250F for about 5 minutes, just to dry it out a bit. Tear it up, and buzz it in a food processor or blender until it is the consistency you want. For this recipe, you will want them very fine.

1. Buzz all of veg (carrots, onion, celery, green pepper, garlic) in a mini or regular sized food processor. If you don’t have one, you should get one, they’re very useful and will only run you about $25. If you don’t have either of those things, but you do have a blender I suppose you could try that. If all else fails, chop everything very, very finely.

Ingredients, all measured out in a super big bowl.
2. Preheat your oven to 375F.

3. Mix all ingredients together in a very large bowl. Use your hands. Its the only way to ensure that the ingredients get mixed all of the way through. If the meat mixture is overly crumbly (as in, you’re not sure if its going to hold together) then add another egg. If its too wet, add some more bread crumbs. Don’t over mix, this will make your meatballs tough. You just want your veg to be evenly distributed. I use lean hamburger, its lower in fat than medium, or regular, but still has enough fat in it that your meatballs won’t be dry. If you prefer a different type of hamburger, knock yourself out, you’ll just need to adjust your liquids (eggs) accordingly, and be prepared for either a drier, or greasier meatball.

2/3 of a club pack of ground beef - in case you were wondering what it looked like.
4. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper or tin foil. Parchment paper is better, as your food won’t stick to it. Leaving about a centimetre and a half between meatballs, roll them out and place them on the trays. I like to make mine about 2-3 cm around.

Meatballs ready for the oven.
5. Bake them, two trays at a time if you can for 20-30 minutes, until they’re cooked through (i.e. not pink on the inside anymore, you’ll have to sacrifice one...)

6. Set them aside to cool. Once they’re fully cooled, put them in a freezer bag and throw them in the deep freeze for a week night in the future, when you’re too tired to do anything but open up the bag of meatballs, and heat them in a sauce of some kind. Really, since you’ve already cooked them through, all you need to do is heat them up! It’s important to use a freezer bag, and not tupperwear, because they will become freezer burnt in the tupperwear!

On top of spaghetti, all covered in cheese!
I lost my poor meatball, when somebody sneezed!
Happy Eating!


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

MMMMMMMMM Butter Chicken!

For those of you wondering, one of our elevators is now functioning, so life in our kitchen is more or less back to normal after a week of quick meals and take out. Today, I’ve got one of my very favourite recipes to share with you. I don’t make it a lot, but its something that is worthy of cravings, and this week I’m craving it something terrible.

At my house growing up we ate a pretty standard rural Ontario diet. A mixed British - Scottish and Irish background meant that meat and potatoes and at least one veggie were on my dinner plate almost every night, except for those occasions where we had spaghetti, lasagna, or a stirfry. Every Sunday, rain or shine, we had a roast of some sort, usually beef, but sometimes pork, or chicken.

Peterborough in those days didn’t offer a whole lot of ethnic food choices - you could order Chinese food, or Pizza. Those were your takeout options. So when I moved to Ottawa for school, I was intrigued by the plethora of different food choices that were right at my door, and I went to work, sometimes a little hesitantly, at expanding my palate.

Curry sounds exotic, and the sound of it can sometimes be intimidating for those of us who have never tried it before. But when you get right down to it, at its most basic level, its really just a stew. The elements that make it exotic are the flavourings and spices used to give it its robust taste. Now admittedly, I’m not a big fan of things super spicy, so I tend to stick to the milder varieties, but you could always throw in a bit more spice if you wanted. Curry doesn’t have to be spicy, and the recipe for the one below is mild. Super spicy curries do exist, I tried one by accident while we were China this past June. If you see Jon, ask him about it. The whole table was laughing at the expression on my face, and I’m pretty sure my eyes were watering! Note to self: the spice levels in Asia, are not the same as in Canada! That’s for sure!

This recipe is adapted from a cookbook called Eat, Shrink and Be Merry by Janet and Greta Podeleski. The recipe can be found on the Food Network website, here. Interestingly enough, the recipe that is listed in the cookbook is a bit different than this one, although they're called the same thing. I've sort of melded the two together and made my own changes as well.

To speed up the recipe a bit, I’ve opted not to marinate the chicken. This choice also cuts down on the spice factor. I also prefer to use all white meat, this is just a personal preference. There is no reason not to use what you’ve got on hand, or what you prefer. You could speed up the recipe even further by using a store bought rotisserie chicken. This option is actually probably more cost effective as well, as you don’t need to pay for the electricity to cook it, boneless skinless chicken is like gold these days, and if you purchase the whole chicken, you also have the bones for stock. (II’ll publish a posting on the virtues of using a whole chicken later this fall.)

You may note that this recipe doesn't in fact have curry in it and you may be wondering why I'm calling it a curry...we'll I guess it isn't, but I think it belongs in the same food family, and for that reason I lump it in with curries.

MMMMMM...Butter Chicken!
2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts roughly chopped, or 2 c. of left-over chicken
2 tbsp. butter
Colourfully beautiful spices!
1 c. chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced or 1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. grated gingerroot
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 can (28 oz/798 mL) diced tomatoes, including juice
2 tbsp. brown sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste
2/3 c. sour cream (I used fat-free, use whatever you have in the fridge - plain yogourt would also work)
1/2 c. milk (I used skim)
1tbsp. peanut butter
1 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro, or 1 tsp. dried
Hot cooked rice

Before you get started, a few notes on Ginger...
  • Keeping your ginger in the freezer allows it to be more easily grated. You don’t even need to peel it. It also allows you to keep some on hand without worrying about needing to use it before it goes bad.
  • If your ginger is fresh, you can easily peel it with a teaspoon. This will allow you to get around all of the knobs, and you won’t lose any of the flesh either.
  • You can purchase pre-peeled and minced ginger in the salad section of your grocery store. Garlic also comes like this. Some of you might be wrinkling your noses at the thought of using prepared items like this, but really there is no shame in it. Its a time saver, and your time is precious.
I sauteed my chicken with spices used in the rest of the dish.
1. Bake off, poach or saute the chicken breasts until cooked through. About 20 - 25 minutes. Dice and set aside. While the chicken is cooking you can make sauce. If you’re using long grain, or basmati rice, put it on to cook now.

2. In a large pot, over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is melted and frothy, add the onions and garlic and sauté until tender. This will take about 5 minutes.

3. When the onions are translucent add the ginger, chili powder, turmeric, ground coriander, cinnamon and cumin. Cook for another minute.

Smells super yummy!
4. Add tomatoes, brown sugar, tomato pasted and salt and pepper. Turn the heat to it’s lowest setting and cover your pot. Let the mix simmer (not boil) for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you’re making instant rice, put it on to cook now.

5. Stir in sour cream, milk, pb and cilantro. Add cut-up chicken and mix well.

6. Cook just until chicken is hot. Serve over rice.

Yes, if you’re cooking for two, this recipe will make leftovers (it will easily feed about 5 adults). But there won’t be copious amounts, and they’re of the type that is glorious for lunch the next day. It’s a lot easier to eat a brown bag lunch, when its something delicious that you’re looking forward to eating.

Cheers and happy eating!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Broken Water Main and Out of Service Elevators = Take Out and Breakfast for Dinner

So, cooking at our home this week has been a bit put off by an incident which occured in our building early Monday morning.  At around 5:30am, we were startled awake by the fire alarm, which does not sound like a bell, but rather a pulsating, ear piercing noise. Once we realized it was indeed the fire alarm, and managed to get ourselves down the 12 flights of stairs and in to the rain, we were told that it wasn't a fire (it was really and truley a fire last time - ask 704 who had his patio furniture go up in flames), but that the water main leading in to the building had burst.

Better than the fire that happened on the 7th floor in April we thought, but on the way back in to the building one of the kind Firemen let us know that they'd be calling the city to turn the water off, and that they didn't know when it would be back on. As we all shuffled in to the elevators, we could hear the water pouring in to the basement...a great way to start a work week!

When we returned home, the elevators were out of service, and the water was still off. With no way to wash dishes, or even flush the toilet, take out and paper plates were our choice on Monday. The water was turned back on around 8:30pm Monday evening - thank God for plumbers! We've also realized that an emergency kit, including a few litres of water would be a good thing to have on hand. Here is a link to the list published by the Department of Public Safety of what should be in an emergency kit.

Tuesday, we found a lovely note on our door from building management indicating that extensive damage had been done to the elevators and that one of them might possibly be working again on the is the 26th...large grocery shops are out of the question for the time being -  I'm not carrying heavy bags of groceries up 12 flights, and Jon has also vehemently indicated that he will not be doing this either - although, it should be noted that in December 2009, Jon did climb the 12 flights carrying a 15 pound turkey...

We had breakfast for dinner on Tuesday. It was sort of a bacon and egg tart if you will, a recipe which I adapted from the September 2010 issue of Everyday Food. (I will link to the recipe when it is available on line).

Bacon and Eggy Tarts
8 slices of bread
1/4 of slab bacon, sliced into lardons (or 6 pieces of regular bacon sliced into bite sized pieces)
6 eggs
butter to grease the muffin tins
salt and pepper to taste

1. Fry the bacon until golden, but not crispy. It will keep cooking in the oven later. Set aside.
2. Using a rolling pin, flatten your slices of bread slightly, and using a large water glass, cut out 8 rounds and slice in half.
3. Thoroughly grease 6 of the cups in a muffin tin and turn your oven on to 350F.
4. Use your half moons of bread to line the greased muffin tins. Usually, each will take two, but use the extra ones to fill in any gaps.
5. Distribute the bacon in each of the "tart shells" and crack an egg in to each.
6. Season with salt and pepper to taste and bake for 12-15 minutes, until the egg is just set. Don't over bake, or you'll get a weird film over top which is a bit rubbery, and not so good to eat. If this happens, just peel off that layer.

Sorry there are no pictures this time around, but really, it looked delicious, and it tasted delicious too. This recipe could be easily doubled, and would make a lovely brunch dish. It would probably also be good for kids, since it can be eaten sort of like a cupcake.

Dinner for the rest of the week will probably be similarly simple. We're cooking from the pantry until the elevators are fixed!

Here's hoping for a less eventful next week!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Budget Wise Dinner for 2: Seasonal Pasta – Sausage and Zucchini Fettuccine

Late summer is delicious. The days are a little bit cooler, the evenings are fresh and beautiful and in Ontario, as around the country, the bounty of the harvest is pouring in to stores and markets everywhere and screams to be eaten.

Growing up, we always had a variety of fruits and vegetables on our table and in our fridge. My maternal grandparents owned and operated a fruit market, and my Mom worked there. Fruits and vegetables were the family business you could say, and this helped me learn at an early age the importance of buying fresh, local produce. It also means that I'm blessed with a well developed knowledge of which fruits and veggies are in season when, which not only helps me eat produce at its finest, but it also helps me save money too. Here is a link to a Foodland Ontario Chart which indicates what is in season when.

Mid-August is prime zucchini season. I know you've all heard about this miracle crop that seems to multiply like rabbits in your garden. It's a pretty versatile veggie; good on its own sautéed a little bit, but is also good shredded up in things like lasagna, as nutritious filler. Tonight it is one of the stars of a pasta dish I like to make in the summer, once the humidity has passed, and I'm starting to crave the comfort foods of fall again.
Zucchini - the miraculous multiplying vegetable!
Normally, I try and avoid leftovers like the plague. I don't enjoy eating the same thing, or a variation thereof, all week. However, pasta dishes are an exception. They are a delight the next day for lunch after the sauce has had a chance to soak in. stomach is growling thinking about it now!

So, on to the recipe, which made a dinner for two, with leftovers, for only $8 (price breakdown below).

Sausage and Zucchini Fettuccine
1 package of Mild Italian Sausages, removed from casings, and crumbled (about 5 dinner sized links)
1/4 medium Sweet Onion, chopped
1 clove Garlic, minced
28 oz. tin of Crushed, Stewed or Diced tomatoes (I used crushed)
2 small Zucchini, green or yellow will work (I used both)
1 package of Fresh Fettucine, or 1/2 package of Dried Fettucine
S&P,to taste
Canola Oil,as needed
Honey or Sugar,as needed.

1. Heat a large frying pan to medium high and add the crumbled sausage. You may need to break this up further with a wooden spoon. Brown the sausage for about 5 minutes.

Kind of like sausage meatballs.
2. If the sausage hasn't released many drippings, add about a tbsp. of oil. Then add onions and garlic and sauté for 3-5 minutes.

3. Add the tin of tomatoes. If you’re using diced or stewed, break up with back of wooden spoon. Stir well and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Simmering dinner.
4. Add sliced zucchini and cook for an additional 8-10 minutes. Seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. If you find the sauce too acidic add a big squeeze of honey, or a tablespoon or two of sugar. Sounds weird, but trust me, it works.

Cook your pasta at this time too.

5. When your pasta is done, mix the whole mess together so that the pasta can absorb a bit of the sauce. Then serve with some parmesan cheese on top if you like.


Price breakdown as follows:

Sausage $1.99 (on sale)
Zucchini $0.70 (on sale, and in season)
Onion $0.25 (whole onion $0.98)
Tin of Crushed Tomatoes $1.59
Fresh Pasta $3.49
S&P, Oil and Garlic Freebies (These are likely in your pantry)
Total Cost $8.02

Note: If you have dried pasta on hand, use it and you’ll further reduce the cost of your meal to about $6.50.

Delicious, seasonal food, using local produce is possible on a budget – you just need to know when things are in season, and take advantage of sales when they happen.

Happy Eating!


Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Night Dinner for 2 : Brined and Grilled Pork Chops and Corn-Basil Pancakes

Tonight's dinner for two is a fairly quick and easy one. Pork Chops and Corn-Basil Cakes. No need for a starch because the pancakes are a two for one deal - veggies and starch in one shot. You could serve this with a salad too if you were so inclined, but I think you'll find that the meal is filling enough with out it.

Why brine the pork chops you ask? It seems a bit fussy when you could just slap them on the grill, or in the frying pan you say? This is true - I can't dispute the fact that you could have perfectly satisfactory pork chops without brining them. However, try brining once (it only takes 15 minutes) and you'll never go back! The end result is so succlent and juicy, that the extra 15 minutes seems like a very small price to pay and really, who couldn't use those 15 minutes to relax and have a libation to unwind from a long Monday?

Easy Brined and Grilled Pork Chops
2 Pork Chops, on the bone and thick is better, but whatever you have will be fine
1 c. Boiling Water
4 c. Cold Water
1/2 c.Salt
1/2 c. Sugar
1 tsp. Chili Flakes
S&P to taste
BBQ Sauce of your choice

1. Boil the 1 c. of water and pour in to a large bowl. Mix in, until dissolved, salt and sugar. Add the rest of the brine ingredients (cold water and chili flakes) in a large bowl. Place your meat in the bowl, and wait 15 minutes. If you have time, you can brine up to 24 hours. If you're going to brine your meat longer than 15 minutes be sure to put it in the fridge.  You can also brine other cuts of pork (like tenderloin), and chicken and turkey as well. Adjust the spices as you like.

Pork in a bath. Betcha never thought you'd see that!
2. Heat your grill or a frying pan to medium high. If you're using a frying pan, add a little oil to the pan.

3. Remove your chops from the brine, and pat dry with a paper towel. Season your meat with s&p and place on the grill.

4. Cook to an internal temperature of 150F, turning once, and basting with your favorite BBQ sauce.

Handy grill work by my man Jon.
5. Remove from the grill or pan, cover with tinfoil and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Be patient - I know you're hungry! But honestly, meat that has been rested is far better than meat straight from the grill. Resting allows the juices to redistribute making for a yummy piece of meat.

At our house, grilling is done by men, so while my man grills the chops, I make up the pancakes.  The timing for this duo is just about perfect, you'll finish up the last of the pancakes while the meat is resting.

My very enthusiastic Sous Chef, Tucky, hard at work!

Corn and Basil Pancakes
*adapted from Eating Well's recipe, orignal available here.

3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. milk
2 eggs
2 tbsp.oil, divided
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 c. fresh or frozen corn (I used frozen)
6-8 leaves chopped fresh basil, or 1 tsp. dried basil

1. Make the pankcake batter. Start off by whisking together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt and pepper). When you've done this, add in the wet ingredients (eggs, 1 tbsp. oil, and milk) and whisk until smooth. The batter should be the consistency of thick pancake batter. Add in the corn and basil and stir until coated.

The batter will thin out a bit when you add the corn.

2. Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium. Add oil, or give it a spray with PAM if you have it. You could also use a cast iron pan if you wanted, but you'll need to double the oil, unless your pan is well seasoned.

Obviously I opted for the extra oil.

3. As for cooking, if you've made pancakes before which I suspect you have, you shouldn't have any problems with these. Drop a large spoonful into the pan. Let cook for about 2 minutes. Turn them, and let them cook about 3 more minutes. If you flip them too soon, they will crumble, believe me. You may need to adjust the heat so that they don't burn, depending on your stove and the pan you're using.

Mmmmmmm! Dinner!
Note: These are pretty good with a dollop of goats cheese on top!

A yummy Summer dinner for two, in about 45 minutes. If there are leftover pancakes for the love of God don't heat them up in the microwave - the result is not good! Ask Jon. Instead, throw them back in the frying pan for a few minutes to heat them through.

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Confession #2 - I keep an inventory of my freezer...

Really, I do. Those of you who know me are shaking your heads right now, because I’m sure this revelation isn’t really that surprising to you. Now, I should clarify. I don't just mean the over the fridge freezer (although I inventory this too), I mean our mini deep freeze.

Our trusty deep freeze. One of the best birthday presents ever. Serious.
Deep Freezes can turn in to an abyss. There are times when you just don't know what you're going to find in the deep, dark corners. But freezers can play an important role in keeping your grocery bills low. An initial investment of a couple hundred dollars can help you save hundreds over the long run.

If you have a freezer, don’t just use it to hold your frozen pizzas and hard liquor (although, you’ll find both in my freezers), use it to store perishables you’ve picked up on sale. By buying multiples of items you regularly use when they’re on sale you save a lot of pennies which can be used for other things. You can also buy larger quantities of produce when it is in season, and more reasonably priced, and store it in the freezer for out of season use.

Blueberries and Cranberries - washed and frozen, ready to be used.
Case in point, during the cooler months of the year we often enjoy a roasted chicken on the weekend. When they're not on sale, a whole chicken, can run you between $10 and $15. However, about once a month or so, they go on sale at our grocery store for $5 a piece. So, I buy two or three and put them away. Over the course of a year, this saves us about $100. For us, this wouldn’t be possible without a deep freeze. However, if an over the fridge freezer is all you have, keep it organized, and you'll be surprised at what you can get in it.

It might not look organized, but it is! :o)
So, you’ve used this strategy, and you have a fully loaded, packed to the brim freezer. But now you can't remember what's at the bottom. You can only remember the most recent thing you put in... dundudadaaaaaaaaaa! FREEZER INVENTORY TO THE RESCUE! (Picture an 8*10 sheet of paper with a list on it, wearing a red and black cape and mask here)

We try to make a note of what goes in and out of the freezer, and how much of each item remains. This way, when we're trying to plan out our meals for the week, or our groceries, or even just our next meal, we can just have a peek at the list, and go from there, rather than digging through the deep freeze unnecessarily and forgetting to put something back in. (This happens, ask me why on at 8am one Saturday morning last fall I roasted two large roasts of beef, only to put them back in the freezer…)

The Inventory. A little worse for the wear, but still very useful.
Taking a few minutes to make an inventory also gives you an opportunity to pitch those unidentifiable objects, and to make note of things you didn’t know you had. Keep your inventory however you like. Maybe you only need a list of things that are in there. I like to divide mine in to four sections: Meats, Fruits and Veggies, Prepared Foods and Bread. Probably unnecessary, but that’s how I like it. Keep it somewhere visible, like posted on the fridge or a bulletin board, and refer to it when you need to.

From my computer, where I’m thinking about what to make for dinner, to yours: Happy Inventorying!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Confession #1 - I want to write a food blog (but you already knew that...)

When I went away to university I made it a point not to eat the typical University staples on a regular basis. Sure, I dug in to a box of Kraft Dinner every now and then (I still do for that matter), but I knew that developing skills in the kitchen was just as important as the skills I was learning in class. Fast forward to today, a number of years out of University (no need to discuss how many) and I find myself a 20-something with a deeply rooted appreciation of cooking. There's something really gratifying about creating something for your loved ones (or colleagues, or your loved one's colleagues) that you just know they'll enjoy.

If you go looking for it, you'll find a whole online community of home cooks, sharing recipes, tricks and tips with each other. Everyday, I visit the blogs of a few of these home chefs, looking for recipes, ideas and inspiration that will translate well to my own kitchen. These blogs are really great, and I really enjoy reading them, but each serves its own niche audience, and while I may partially belong to these, I think I really fit in to my own. So I thought - why not become a part of this online community and start my own blog? There must be other people out there like me, looking for the same things.

As one member of a double-income, no kids household (we're DINK's if you will) I face my own unique set of challenges. My spouse and I both work in busy corporate environments, and at the end of the day we're mentally drained and starving, and together we face the same question: What's for supper? All too often my spouse and I find ourselves calling up our favorite delivery place to answer that question for us.

What we want to eat should be healthy, cost-effective, easy to prepare and not leave the fridge full of leftovers. But you know what? It's a struggle to find and create a meal that is all of these things.

I'm not exactly sure what I want this blog to be. I guess, essentially, I want to share recipes that I think are really great, and tips and tricks that I think are helpful. I suppose if this blog accomplishes anything beyond that, it's just an added plus.

From my computer, where I'm thinking about what to make for dinner, to yours: Happy Cooking!