Category Archives: Food

Swiss Steak

dishing up swiss steak photo-d-stewartHere is a recipe for Swiss steak as made by Elizabeth (McDonald) Smock, and written down by her daughter Marji Stewart. That’s Elizabeth’s grandson who is cooking the Swiss steak in these pictures. The notes in brackets in the recipe are Marji’s.

Elizabeth’s Swiss Steak

I large round steak, bone removed
flour, salt, pepper, spices as desired
chopped onion
potatoes, carrots

Place steak on floured breadboard (I take it outside with newspapers under board to catch flying flour.)
Beat steak with mallet or edge of small saucer until very tender.
Work in salt and pepper.
(When your wrist is about to fall off it probably is tender!)

Cut meat in 4-6 pieces

Brown in hot oil on both sides, then remove, but leave oil in pan. (I use an electric frying pan.)

Have on hand:

1 can beef broth
1 cup water
steak sauce
1/4 – 1/2 cup cooked tomatoes
hot sauce
1/2 cup red wine

Add steak back to pan with about 1/4 cup or less of the hot oil.
Cover with chopped onion.

Add liquids a small amount at a time.

Simmer about 3 hours.

swiss steak served with peas photo-d-stewartAbout 45 minutes prior to serving, add 3-4 potatoes and 4 peeled carrots.

You don’t want soup but a tasty gravy to develop. Keep temperature low enough to simmer, not boil. Add more liquid ingredients to taste.

At Monroe Smock, Kentucky you can read more about Elizabeth and her family.

Juicer Rhubarb

juicer ready for rhubarbBought a juicer. A Cuisinart, on sale. More precisely, it’s a juice extractor. Fruit or vegetables go in, spin around while little blades separate the pulp from the juice.

First to go in is rhubarb. Here’s how it worked out for me. The quantities I give are for the pitcher on my juicer, which holds 32 ounces (4 cups or .95 L).

Prepare the rhubarb, set the juicer speed

Wash about 18 rhubarb stalks and chop into 4-5″ lengths (10-12 cm). The juicer manual didn’t include rhubarb in its speed settings guide. So I chose the 2nd fastest, same as what’s recommended for pears or celery. I figured they were close to the consistency of rhubarb.

Feed the tube

rhubarb juice in juicer pitcherFeed the rhubarb pieces into the juicer tube a few at a time. My juice container holds 32 ounces. In this picture, it’s too full. See the darker liquid and foamy stuff above the band near the top? You don’t want that in your juice. A barrier inside the pitcher holds back most of it but it still leaches into the spout. I skimmed off as much as I could, trying not to mix it into the juice below. That’s easier to do if the jug fills only to the top mark.

Strain the juice

pouring-rhubarb-juicePour the juice from the pitcher into a measuring cup. Leave the lid on the pitcher – it also helps block the foamy stuff.  And, although it’s hard to co-ordinate your hands, it helps a lot if you also use a cheesecloth-lined sieve for this initial pouring. Keep the flow as even as possible and watch it as you near the bottom. Stop pouring when you start to see the cloudy, green residue enter the flow. Throw that out.

Next pour the juice into another bowl or pitcher through a cheesecloth-lined sieve. Rinse the cheesecloth and container to remove residue and foam. Then filter the juice back and forth between pitchers a few times to strain out as much foam and residue as you can.

Add water and sweeten

add-water-to-juiceMeasure the amount of juice and heat the same amount of water. For 4 cups water, I add 1/2 cup sugar. Stir until it dissolves. Pour into the pitcher of rhubarb juice and mix well.

Taste it. Add a bit of sugar or water if needed. If you can’t fix it without losing flavour, make more juice and mix the two to correct the proportions. A splash of lemon juice brightens the taste, if needed.

Bottle

Put a funnel in your juice bottle and pour your juice in. You can line the funnel with a bit of cheesecloth if you want to do one more filtration.

remove-foam-from-juiceThe juice will foam up in the bottle. If you’re using a flexible container, gently squeeze it to make the juice move up the neck. The foam will rise so you can scoop it off. Be careful to not squeeze too hard. It can pop up and you’ll have juice all over the counter. I know; it happened.

One juicer load of rhubarb made one 1.89 L bottle of rhubarb juice.

Is a juicer easier?

I don’t know if the juicer is any easier or better than making juice by draining cooked rhubarb through a sieve (here’s how to do that). You get a completely raw product using the juicer. But you also get the weird green foam, which you don’t get by cooking and sieving.

glass of rhubarb juice with lime sliceYou go from picking your rhubarb to having a finished bottle of juice more quickly using the juicer because you don’t have to stop and wait for gravity to act. But the quantity you can make at one time is limited by what the jug holds. One bottle rather than the usual two I make using sieved juice. However, both methods result in equally good tasting juice.

Asparagus Casserole

asparagus casserole photo d stewartThis baked asparagus and cheese casserole is my mother-in-law’s recipe. It was one of her potluck favourites because it travels well and easily warms up in a microwave. And if it can’t be warmed up, it still tastes good.

Ingredients

2 tbsp butter or margarine
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
2/3 cup grated cheese (your choice;  I used extra old cheddar)
1 lb fresh asparagus or 2 cans asparagus tips

optional: sliced or slivered almonds,
– thin strips of red pepper,
– crushed Ritz crackers or cornflakes

Asparagus

chopped asparagus photo-d-stewartChop washed asparagus into 2-3 inch pieces. Use 2/3 to 3/4 of stalk, leaving woody ends. Microwave pieces about 1 1/2 minutes, or steam on stovetop for 3 minutes, to partially cook them. Distribute evenly in a low greased casserole dish (I use an 8 x 8″ one).

Cheese sauce

white-sauce-photo-d-stewartMake white sauce by melting butter in small saucepan, add flour, stirring in well. Turn heat down and continue to stir for about 2 minutes until roux bubbles and thickens. Slowly add milk, stirring often to prevent lumps. When it starts to thicken, add cheese slowly and stir until smooth. Turn off heat.

Combine in casserole

pouring sauce over asparagusPour cheese sauce evenly over asparagus in casserole dish. Top with crunchy bits and red pepper if you wish. I added all of them here: a small handful of crushed cornflakes, red pepper strips and sliced almonds.

Bake at 350° for 25-30 mins, until bubbly. Serves 2 as main dish or 4 as side. You can double the recipe, using a larger dish.

pork-chop-asparagus-potato-photo-d-stewartAsparagus needs nothing extra to make it glorious. But baked in a cheese sauce adds flavours and textures that make it a meal all on its own. If you want it vegan, replace the dairy with soy products.

Coffee Pods

coffee pods in drawer-photo-d-stewartKeurig coffee – wonderful. The K-cup – not so much. Concern about the plastic coffee pods started almost as soon as the Keurig coffee maker came on the market. Each one is very small. But add up one household’s consumption, then another’s, in a week, a month. Doesn’t take long to have a mountain of them.

Coffee pod manufacturers responded. You can now buy many types of pods packaged various ways. They are recyclable and compostable, in part or whole. But you have to read the box, and the pods.

pods-recycling-numbers-photo-d-stewart
Left pod marked “w” and middle “6” are not recyclable, right one marked “5” is recyclable

The plastic casing is the problem. That casing seals in the coffee, thereby keeping it fresh. Many were not made of recyclable plastic. Some still aren’t. Recycling services that I know of accept only numbers 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 plastics. So those marked No. 6, like Tim Horton’s, still go in the garbage. And pods without a number – who knows? Again, garbage.

An increasing number now are marked No. 5. So recyclable. But, despite what the box says, not with coffee grounds still in them. You have to separate the plastic from the coffee and filter bag.

How to separate coffee pods

remove-foil-lid-photo-d-stewart1. Hook your fingernail in the little hole in the foil cover and pull it off.

2. Squeeze pod upside-down over compost container to loosen coffee

3. Dig your finger into pod and pull out as much coffee as you can

filter-removal-photo-d-stewart4. Holding pod in one hand, grab a bit of netting with thumb and forefinger of other hand and pull until it rips. Then pull all the way around until the coffee and netting are detached from the plastic pod.

5. Rinse plastic pod well and try to pull off leftover netting.

It’s not easy, but you  get better at it with practice. And sometimes, when you see you’ve grabbed a non-recyclable pod, you say a fervent hallelujah as you toss it! I found a tool that separates the pods (see Amazon box below). Might be easier on the fingers.

Compostable Pods

compostable-pods-photo-d-stewartThese are much easier to deal with. A ring and filter made of plant-based materials and paper lid,  the whole thing will compost as is – eventually. But they still come to you in packaging. Either individually wrapped in plastic or grouped in a foil bag. The foil bags say “rinse and reuse”. But I haven’t figured out anything to reuse even one for.

composting-coffee-pods-photo-d-stewartMy preferred choice so far is the individually wrapped compostable pod. Jumping Bean, from Newfoundland (available on Amazon.ca and excellent coffee!) The plastic wrapper probably isn’t recyclable but at least it’s little.

Reusable pods

Obviously, reusable is best. Soon after buying our Keurig, and realizing the amount of garbage produced by the pods, I bought a reusable-pod-photo-d-stewartrefillable pod. What a misery! You must replace one whole mechanism with the other, so it’s not easy to switch back and forth. My refillable one went to the back of the drawer where it sits in silent witness to the traffic in easier, but wasteful, coffee pods.

There are refillable pods available that look easier to use (see Amazon link below). Maybe I’ll try again!

Fish Cakes

A can of tuna and presto, you’ve got fish cakes. Quick and easy, they make a simple or dressed up dinner or lunch. Tuna, bread crumbs, an egg, and onion. That’s all you need.

tuna fish cakes photo d stewart

Tuna + breadcrumbs = fish cakes

Open a 170 gram tin of tuna and drain the liquid. (Pour it into your cat or dog bowl and they’ll love you forever.) Put it in a medium size bowl and flake it with a fork. Add:

  • finely chopped onion (maybe 1-2 tbsp),
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs,
  • 1 beaten egg,
  • salt and pepper and whatever herbs or spices you like. Basil or rosemary works. Parsley flakes or finely chopped fresh. Cumin.

Mix everything well.

Heat a frying pan with a bit of oil in it at medium-high heat. Take a handful of tuna mixture in your hands and shape it into a small patty. Put it in the frying pan and repeat. You’ll get probably 5 patties.

Fry the patties a few minutes on one side then carefully with a spatula turn them over and let the other side cook. Both sides should be browned and a bit crispy.

Alternatives and serving

You can also use canned salmon or crab meat. Also salt cod, smoked salmon or fresh fish. (With salmon, I pull off the skin and larger bones and give them and the liquid to the cats and dog. It’s messy to pick out but I don’t like it and they do.)

Fresh fish must be cooked first. Just put the fillet in a frying pan and lightly fry it while flaking it at the same time. Leftover mashed potatoes works instead of bread crumbs as the filler. Or cracker crumbs.

You can add celery, olives, green or red pepper too, just finely dice everything so the pieces don’t make your patties too lumpy.

Serve your fish cakes with, well, anything. These ones are with steamed broccoli and penne with pesto. But they also go well with rice or any kind of potatoes, salad, potato or pasta salad. If you want twice as many patties, just double the ingredients.

Ratatouille

ratatouille-on-riceOne thing I thank a long ago boyfriend for is introducing me to ratatouille. He used the Joy of Cooking recipe, but added ground beef and cumin. That radically changes it from the vegetable casserole in the Joy. Both are equally, but differently, delicious. The Joy describes it as looking “like a very successful Braque still-life” (Rombauer & Becker). So here is the original recipe with changes in italics and strikethroughs.

Joy‘s Eggplant Casserole or Ratatouille Provençale

(8 servings)

Peel, slice and salt* 1 medium eggplant (2 1/2 cups diced)

eggplant slices salted*To get of excess moisture: slice eggplant cross-wise, about 3/4-1 inch thick. Lay slices on paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Leave about 10 minutes, then turn over and salt the other side. Let sit another 10 minutes. Rinse, pat dry, then dice. (I do not peel the eggplant.)

Put in a deep skillet 1/4-1/3 olive oil

Sauté until golden:

  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced onions
  • 2 cloves garlic (pressed or minced)

onions-and-garlic fryingAdd 1 lb (1/2 k) lean ground beef and brown. Pour off excess grease.

Add:

  • 1/2 cup whole pitted black olives
  • 4 julienned green (and/or red) peppers, seeds and membrane removed
  • 3 cups zucchini in 1/2 inch slices (about 3 medium)
  • 2 cups skinned, seeded, quartered tomatoes (or whole, fresh or cooked)

Add drained eggplant. Sprinkle the mixture with olive oil.

vegetables-and-beef in potAdd 1/2 tsp oregano or 2 tsp chopped fresh basil (Joy says optional, I say either or both, fresh or dried.)

Add 2-3 tsp ground cumin, more or less, to taste.

Simmer covered over very low heat about 45 mins. Uncover and continue to heat 15 mins. longer to reduce the amount of liquid. Add salt and a grating of fresh pepper.

cooked-ratatouilleWhile it’s cooking, make steamed rice. Serve hot – on a bed of rice – or cold with cultured sour cream.

Apple Chutney

Apples left over from a good crop this year from our trees. As much apple chutneyjelly and juice as I could handle making, apple crumble too. Maybe apple chutney? Lots of recipes on line. But most called for raisins, which I did not have and don’t actually like in chutney. One, however, fit the bill: myheartbeets Instant Pot Indian Apple Chutney.

So Google told me an Instant Pot is a fancy pressure cooker that does everything except eat the food it cooks. Not having one, I improvised – with one ordinary cooking pot. I don’t know how mine compares to that made in an Instant Pot, but I like it. Delicious, easy to make and versatile.

Instant Pot Indian Apple Chutney (adapted)

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds (didn’t have them, so omitted)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves (I used 1 dried bay leaf)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (my addition)
  • 4 red apples (approx. 1½ lbs) cored and quartered
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder (I used 1 tsp minced fresh ginger root)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne, adjust to taste
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

add later:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-2 tsp Kashmiri chili or paprika (for colour), optional
How I made it

apples-ready-to-cook1. Core and cut up apples. Sprinkle them with lemon juice to keep them from browning. (Also, in looking for substitutions for curry leaves, I read that they are kind of citrusy. So lemon juice would not hurt.) My apples were small so I just quartered them. If I were using large apples, using my method, I’d chop the quarters again. The way, the peel in the chutney would not be overly large.

2. Put oil in a medium size saucepan and allow it a minute to heat up. Then add the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves to the pot. Once the cumin seeds begin to brown, add the apples and remaining spices (turmeric, ginger, salt, cayenne). Give everything a good mix, then add the apple cider vinegar.

3. Cook for 15 minutes at medium high heat.

apples-cooked-15-mins4. Mix well and mash up apple pieces. My apples pretty much did this themselves, so I just stirred it a bit. If need be, purée with an immersion blender, or pour in a blender and purée, then pour back in the pot.

5. Add sugar, cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened. I only cooked it maybe another 5 minutes.

apple-chutney-paprika added6. Stir in Kashmiri chili or paprika, if you wish, and cook another minute or two. I used 1½ tsp paprika.

7. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to a month. I got a 16 ounce container full (about 475 ml).

Ready to use, or can it

I think this would can nicely – although it really is so quick to make that you could just make a container full as you need to. However, jars of it would make a lovely gift – and make you look like a really good cook.

So far, we have tried it on cheese and ham sandwiches – wonderful! chutney-with-beefMy husband also used it as the sauce in a stir fry. Sliced beef, cauliflower, red pepper and sliced cooked potato. 3 tablespoons of chutney and ¼ cup water added. Heated through, and served on rice. A bit of spicy heat in it, but delicate and light. Perfect.

Zucchini Noodles

thin zoodlesWhen only a giant zucchini will do: to make zucchini noodles. Zoodles some call them. Use them the same way you use pasta. They taste great, and they are gluten free, wheat free and carb free. Also you don’t need to think about what vegetable to serve. They are the “something green” in your meal.

fettuccine style zucchini noodles
Fettuccine style zucchini noodles

Here are two kinds of zucchini noodles I have made, using two blade plates of a mandoline slicer. For thin ones, use the mincer (the one with close-set cutting teeth). For thick fettucine size noodles, use the cutting or julienne blade (with teeth about ¼ inch apart).

1. Slice zucchini noodles

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. If it’s wider than the base of your slicer, cut in half lengthwise again so that it will fit. One half a giant zucchini (say 12″/30 cm) makes enough noodles for two servings.

slicing zucchini with mandolineThen, carefully, slide the zucchini the full length of the slicer. Keep it as flat as you can. Continue this, turning the zucchini around as needed to keep making nice long noodle strings. Stop when you reach the inner part. The seedy, soft part middle will not slice well.

2. Cook zucchini noodles

frying-zoodlesYou can sauté, microwave or boil the zoodles. I heated a tbsp or so of olive oil in a pan and sautéed them a few minutes. Stir and flip them often. Water will come out of the zucchini. That’s good. After another couple minutes, your pile of noodles will shrink in size and they will look cooked. And they are.

3. Plate, top, serve

thin zucchini noodles alfredo with garlic bread
Thin zucchini noodles

Put noodles on plates, draining as much water off as you can. Add your topping. I used alfredo sauce, microwaved straight from the jar. Enjoy.

Using a mandoline is quite labour intensive. Your arm gets tired. So if you are making dinner for eight, even four, you might want a method that is easier and faster. Maybe that’s where a spiralizer or some specialized tool would be worthwhile. See Downshiftology for much more information on zucchini noodle making.

Cheese Stuffed Zucchini

A zucchini that escaped, hiding under foliage in order to grow huge. cheese stuffed zucchini with dinner rollStuff it. With what? What about a cheese stuffing? Something light and summery for the last days of summer. Light cheese. Maybe egg too. Below is what I used, but other combinations of cheese and herbs would work just as well.

Ingredients

1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise
1-2 tbsp chopped onion
1/3 cup (100 g) cream cheese
1/3 cup (100 g) ricotta or cottage cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 large egg, beaten
salt, pepper
fresh or dried herbs
turmeric, garlic (options for taste)
cheddar cheese, grated

Recipe for stuffed zucchini

Scoop out zucchini insides and keep. I left about a half inch of zucchini in the shells. Set them aside to fill later.scooped-zucchini

Take seedy parts out of the zucchini pulp and discard. Chop up the rest of it.

sauteeing-zucchini Melt a bit of butter in a frying pan and add zucchini pulp, onion, salt and pepper. I added about 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric for colour. Garlic would probably be good too.

A lot of water will come out of the zucchini. Drain it and put in a bowl.

cheese added to zucchiniAdd one large egg, beaten.

Add 1/3 cup each cream cheese and ricotta to zucchini-egg mixture. Blend with a fork.

You can use any kind of hard or soft cheese, alone or in combination. I thought the cream cheese and ricotta I had on hand would make a light, almost fluffy filling, and it did.

zucchini egg breadcrumbs and herbsMix in 1 cup breadcrumbs. I added fresh herbs – parsley, basil and rosemary – and green onion, chopped coarsely.

Put a bit of olive oil on zucchini boats and fill with mixture. I added cherry tomatoes on top and grated cheddar cheese over them.

zucchini-ready-to-bakePut them on a baking sheet and add a bit of water to the pan so they don’t stick. Bake at 350°F for about 40 minutes, until cheese on top is nicely browned and zucchini on the sides is soft.

Cut each baked zucchini boat in half, which gives you four servings.cheese-stuffed-zucchini

Alternative suggestions

My husband said the zucchini stuffing on its own would make a great casserole. Its texture is almost like a soufflé. So if I try that, I’d scrape out the whole inside of the zucchini. Then, his suggestion, put the mixture in ramekins for individual servings.  If you want to stick with stuffed zucchini boats, but heartier ones, you can use a thick pasta sauce. Here is how I make  those. And you can buy zucchini corers! (See Paderno’s below) Who knew?

Fruit Cobbler

rhubarb cobblerIn my never-ending spring search for things to do with rhubarb, I found a Robin Hood Flour cobbler recipe in my recipe scrapbook. A cobbler has fruit on the bottom with a cake-like topping. It looks impressive but is actually quite simple. That’s what you want if, like me, you can’t bake. I found this recipe especially easy.

Bumbleberry Cobbler

fruit-mixture(Bumbleberry just means a mixture of berries and fruit. So I used what I had. Rhubarb, frozen cherries and half a jar of apple butter. I just added it up to the same quantity – 7 cups – of fruit.)

Fruit

4 cups (1 L) thinly sliced peeled apples (or not peeled)
1 cup (250 mL) fresh or frozen strawberries, halved
1 cup (250 mL) fresh or frozen raspberries
1 cup (250 mL) fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup (125 mL) Splenda granular (I used same of sugar)
1/3 cup (75 mL) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (50 mL) orange juice or water

Combine all ingredients. Mix well. Spread in greased 9″ (2.5 L) square cake pan or baking dish.

Topping

1 2/3 cups (400 mL) all purpose flour
2 tbsp (30mL) Splenda granular (I used sugar, same amount)
4 tsp (20 mL) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
1 cup (250 mL) milk (or buttermilk)

*Combine flour, sweetener, baking powder and salt in mixing bowl.

*Cut in butter with pastry blender (or fork) until mixture is crumbly.

*Add milk, stirring until moistened.

*Drop spoonfuls of batter over fruit, spreading lightly to cover surface.

Place pan on piece of foil (or baking tray) to catch any drips that boil over.

Bake at 400°F (200°C) for 25-30 minutes, or until top is golden. Serve warm. (Especially good with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top!)

Tip: Vary the berries to suit your personal taste and what’s in season.