Category Archives: Food

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.

Avocado Time

Any time is avocado time, but sunny summer days especially. Here are two really easy avocado side dishes. The first you may not have thought of. The second you likely know well, maybe even dream of.

1. Avocado half with oil and vinegar

avocado time - half with dressing photo d stewartA side salad, of a sort. Elegant and delicious. So even though your observant guest will know you didn’t do much, it looks impressive. The one pictured here is just in a plain bowl with an ordinary spoon. Imagine how pretty it is in a glass bowl with a small fancy spoon.

  • Cut an avocado in half lengthwise and remove the pit
  • Shake a bit of salt, pepper and lemon juice on surface
  • Fill the cavity with oil and vinegar dressing

2. Guacamole

  • 1-2 very ripe avocados, mashed finely with a fork
  • 1-2 tbsp finely chopped onion or scallion
  • 1/2 finely chopped tomato
  • (2-3 tbsp finely chopped green pepper – optional)
  • 1 tbsp lemon or lime juice (more or less, to taste)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro (best) or 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • (dab of sour cream, plain yoghurt or mayonnaise – optional)

Guacamole-with-corn-chips-Popo-le-Chien-2016-wikicommonsMix all ingredients together, put in bowl, garnish with paprika and/or chopped parsley. Cover with Saran wrap to prevent avocado browning.* Chill, adjust oil amounts, lemon juice, salt and pepper for taste.

Serve with tortilla chips, crispy pita bread or crispy crackers. Also good as a taco topping, or on almost anything. It’s avocado time, after all.

From The Joy of Cooking, adapted a bit by me.

*Thanks to Popo le Chien’s photo on Wikimedia Commons, I learned that putting the pit on top of your guacamole keeps it from browning.

(You can grow your own avocado tree too. Suspend the pit over a glass of water with toothpicks, or try the pot system below.)

Beef Stew

beef stew with garlic bunBeef stew is one of the easiest things to make. Brown meat cubes, add veggies and liquid and let it cook slowly. Plan on a couple of hours of cooking time. Stew can be a one-pot meal, with potatoes in it, or served on a bed of rice, noodles or mashed potatoes.

eye-of-round-steaksI like round or eye of round steaks for stewing beef. They have very little fat and you can easily slice or cube them. You can, of course, buy stewing beef. I find it’s more work because I remove the fat and cut the pieces smaller. However, any cheap cut of beef works, a blade roast or steak for example. The long cooking time makes the meat tender.

Stew Process, in short

  1. Brown meat cubes
  2. Add liquid
  3. Add barley, dense vegetables and dried herbs
  4. Let cook 30-40 mins, add delicate vegetables
  5. Cook an hour, add wine and fresh herbs
  6. Let cook 30-40 mins. (Cook stew ‘bed’ if needed)

Stew Process, long version

Put a bit of oil in a deep wide pot, let it heat up, and add chopped onions and garlic. When they have started softening, put the meat cubes in. Stir to get them browned on all sides. (If it’s a teflon pan, you don’t need oil.)

Browning the meat

A) Put it in the pan as is or (b) coat it in seasoned flour first. If you do (b) put maybe 1/4 cup flour on a plate or in a plastic bag. Mix a bit of salt and pepper in. Put the meat pieces in the flour and stir around or shake to completely coat them. Then put the coated meat in the heated oil in your pot. Stir to ensure all sides are browned.

Add liquid, barley, dense vegetables

Start with a cup or two. Any vegetable or beef stock is best, but water will do. The cooking veggies and beef will make their own stock. But using stock adds to the flavour of your sauce.

Stir a handful of barley into the liquid. It needs a long time to fully cook. Barley thickens stew wonderfully. I don’t add barley if I’m putting the stew on top of a starch. It makes it too dense.

Add potatoes (cut up if large or whole if very small) and chopped carrots. They take the longest to cook. Add any other dense vegetable, like brussels sprouts, now as well.

If you want a tomato-ey stew, add a can of whole or diced tomatoes.

Dried herbs, seasonings

Put in 1 or 2 bay leaves. Add dried herbs like basil or oregano as well. If you’re using fresh herbs, leave them until the final half hour of cooking. Add salt and pepper, a few shakes of Worcestershire Sauce and a dollop of ketchup. Simmer for 30-40 mins.

Add soft vegetables

beef-stew-cookingBy now, the potatoes and carrots should be softening. Time to add your other coarsely chopped vegetables. Celery, green and/or red pepper, broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini – whatever you fancy. If you’re using fresh tomatoes, either cherry or chopped, add them too. I add these vegetables later because they are softer and more delicate. You don’t want to cook them to mush.

Now just let it cook for maybe an hour. Add more liquid if it needs it or if you want a thinner sauce.

Red wine, fresh herbs

This is the time to add red wine, both as a flavour agent and a source of liquid. Also add fresh herbs.

If the sauce is too thin, mix up a couple teaspoons of flour in a tablespoon or so of cold water. Stir well to remove lumps and mix slowly in the stew. Or shake in some blending flour, stirring to avoid lumps.

Let it cook another 30 minutes, and it should be done. You’ll see a thin film on the top, almost like a glaze.

Stew more or less cooks itself and it’s remarkably versatile. You can add whatever you have in the way of vegetables. Or if you like meaty stew, you can leave all vegetables out. I’d still put in onions and garlic, though. You can make chicken stew instead of beef, or leave out the meat entirely and make it vegetarian or vegan. Just change the type of stock you use.

Tamale Pie

tamale pie with saladWith salad or garlic bread on the side, tamale pie makes a perfect winter’s night meal. It’s a Tex-Mex type of shepherd’s pie or baked polenta with tomato sauce. My husband uses his mother’s recipe, but has adapted it.

Jim’s Tamale Pie Recipe

“Basically, you make taco filling and put corn meal on top.”

Ingredients

1 clove garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1-2 jalapeño peppers, chopped
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp chili powder
dash cayenne
2 1/2 cups canned tomatoes (whole or diced)
1 1/2 cups corn (frozen, or 1 14 oz. can)
1 cup black olives

1 cup yellow corn meal
1 tsp salt

1 cup grated cheese (Monterey Jack or cheddar)

Directions

Sauté garlic, onion, celery, peppers and ground beef in a frying pan. Cook until meat is lightly browned. Add seasonings, tomatoes, corn and olives. Simmer 15 minutes. Oil a deep casserole dish and transfer mixture to it. (Or, if your casserole dish is stove top safe, use it for the frying as well.)

Mix corn meal with 1 cup cold water. Put 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to boil. Add salt and cornmeal mixture. Cook and tamale piestir until thickened. Reduce heat, cover pan and cook over low heat for 10 mins. Stir occasionally.

Pour over meat mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake in 350°F oven about an hour. Serves 4 or 5.

Marji’s recipe

tamale-pie-recipe card 2I don’t know who this recipe card originally came from. It is not in Marji’s handwriting. I think she likely adapted it much the way he has. Cut down the salt, increase the ‘heat’ with jalapeños and eliminate the fat. However, Jim says that bacon fat would make it more flavourful. You can click the images for a larger view.

Cauliflower Cheese

I made baked cauliflower cheese with cherry tomatoes for supper cauliflower cheese with tomato-photo-d-stewartone night. It was so pretty that I had to take a picture. It tasted so good that I thought I should make it again right away while I could remember how I did it. I still had half a cauliflower but no cherry tomatoes so I used mushrooms instead. Just as good.

Cauliflower Cheese recipe

  • ½ cauliflower head, cut in bite-size florets
  • 1-2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 tbsp onions, chopped
  • 6-10 small mushrooms or cherry tomatoes
  • (1-2 tsp pesto, if you like)
  • breadcrumbs or croutons
  • Parmesan cheese

casserole-ready-to-cook-photo-d-stewartMicrowave cauliflower florets about 2 minutes, so they’re partially cooked. Put them and all other ingredients in a greased 8×8 inch casserole. Pour cheese sauce over veggies and gently mix it in with a spoon.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs or croutons on top. Add a bit of grated parmesan if you wish. Bake at 350℉ for about 30 mins until the top is nicely browned and the cheese sauce is bubbly.

Cheese Sauce

¾ – 1 cup marble or medium cheddar (melts well) cut in small cubes
1 cup milk
2 tsp flour mixed with 2 tbsp cold water (or blending flour without water)

partially-made-cheese-sauce-photo-d-stewartPour the milk in a large enough microwaveable bowl. Mix the flour paste in, then add cheese cubes. Microwave for 3 minutes at 70% power, stir, then nuke another 1½ minutes at 80% power. (More in ‘Microwave Magic’ near bottom of Helpful Hints)

You can also make cheese sauce on the stove top or pour it ready-made out of a jar. Use about 1½ cups.

baked cauliflower casserole-photo-d-stewartIf you like the idea of this meal but it seems like too much work, there’s an even easier way of making cauliflower cheese. Steam or microwave the cauliflower pieces fully and pour cheese cheese over them. Ta-da! You’re done.

Salsa

An excellent medium tomato salsa. It is chunky so if you want a smoother salsa on chipsalsa, cut your veggies into smaller pieces. If you want it hotter, increase the jalapeños. To keep the veggie balance, decrease the green peppers. The tomato sauce and paste give it a nice, thick texture.

As posted by Jazze22, the recipe says 45 minutes preparation and 1¼ hours total time. Preparation – peeling and chopping – took me way longer than that. I chopped everything by hand, and maybe a food processor would be faster. I peeled and chopped long enough to start thinking longingly of supermarket shelves lined with jars of salsa. However, after finally finishing, mine tasted so good and I know exactly what is in it and what isn’t. And that’s worth a lot. Isn’t it?

(* indicates my addition to the original recipe)

chopped veggiesSalsa Ingredients

  • 8 cups tomatoes, peeled, chopped and drained (4-5 lbs whole*)
  • 2 1⁄2 cups onions, chopped
  • 1 1⁄2 cups green peppers
  • 1 cup jalapeño pepper, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander seed*
  • 1⁄8 cup canning salt
  • 1⁄3 cup sugar
  • 1⁄3 cup vinegar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (12 ounce) can tomato pastecooked veggies

Directions

  • Mix all together and bring to a slow boil for 10 minutes (medium heat*)
  • Seal in jars and cook in hot water bath for 10 minutes

Yields 3 quarts or 6 pints. (I got 5 pints with a bit left over)jars of salsa

Basil Pesto

Basil is easy to grow, and each plant produces a lot. There’s only such much fresh basil you can use at any one time. So make pesto with basilthat abundance.

On its own, it’s a light sauce for pasta or a topping for baked potatoes. Joy of Cooking says use 2 tablespoons per portion and mix with equal amount of butter. I toss pasta with maybe half that amount and no butter.

Use it as a seasoning for soups, stews or other types of sauces. Remember though it has an oily texture and pungent flavour, so best to start with a small amount and taste before adding more.

Here is how I make it – based on the recipe in Joy of Cooking (1997 ed.) with one big change. I use a blender instead of a mortar and pestle. I can’t pesto ingredientscompare the two directly since I’m not adept enough at using a mortar and pestle to have ever successfully made it that way. However, mine made with a blender tastes as good as pesto I have bought or had in restaurants.

Pesto ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan or Sardinia cheese
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

My Method

unsticking-blenderI put everything in the blender and use the lowest setting. Toggling the switch on and off helps keep it from jamming. If the ingredients do block the mechanism, turn it off and poke around inside to stir things up. I use a chopstick. It helps to do that anyway so that ingredients blend evenly.

It makes enough to fill a small (227 g) cream cheese container with enough left over for a fettuccine meal.

Joy of Cooking Method

Joy of Cooking says put basil leaves in mortar and pound with pestle. Add garlic and pine nuts and pound.

pesto in containerAdd cheese, until the mixture forms a thick purée. Very slowly add olive oil, stirring constantly, until it’s the consistency of creamed butter.

Put a thin film of olive oil over the top. Cover and refrigerate or freeze.

Parsley may be substituted, but of course the flavour is very different. (It’s really good too. Make it the same way, with the same quantities.)

 

Dill Pickles

I’ve always liked dill pickles, but I didn’t like homemade ones. They handwritten dill pickles recipe photo d stewartjust didn’t have the crunch that Bick’s and any store-bought ones had. Then I tried dills that Helen Erskine made. She and her husband Sam were my parents’ neighbours and friends in Belmont. I guess my shock showed because Helen asked me ‘what is it, dear?’ It’s good, that’s what it is!

So good that even though I was a teenager and had never canned pickles in my life, nor had any intention of doing so, I wrote down her recipe. Miraculously, I never lost that scrap of paper.

It was a long time before I started making pickles. Even longer before I felt confident to try dill pickles. I didn’t want to ruin my memory of Mrs. Erskine’s perfect pickles. I saw, when actually using the recipe, that there were key things that I had not written down. But I figured them out. So below is my amended recipe.

Helen Erskine’s Award-Worthy Dill Pickles

4 qts (8 lbs / 3.6 kg) pickling cucumbers
1 pint (2 cups / 480 ml) white vinegar
3 qts (12 cups / 2.85 ltrs) water
1/2 cup (120 ml / 113 g) coarse salt
sprigs and heads of dill – a couple per jar
garlic cloves – one large for each jar

cucumbers-garlic-dill-photo-d-stewart1. Wash cucumbers well. Remove any stems without cutting into the cucumber itself.

2. Sterilize 6-7 clean quart/litre jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Put snap lids in the canner (or in a separate small pan of boiling water) for the last five minutes.

3. Start preparing the pickle brine (#4). As it heats, your jars should be done. So you can begin packing the clean jars with dill and cucumbers (#5).

4. Put water, vinegar and garlic in large stainless steel or enamel pot and bring to a boil. Add salt. Bring to a rolling boil. (You can instead put a garlic clove in each jar. If you don’t like garlic dill pickles, just leave it out.)

filling-jars-photo-d-stewart5. When jars are sterilized, remove one (carefully, with jar tongs). Put a couple sprigs of dill in it, then pack cucumbers in tightly but without crushing them. Repeat with remaining jars.

6. Scoop the garlic out of the brine and discard. Then ladle brine into the jars. A jar funnel helps keep the rim of your jars clean. Fill to 1/4″ from the top of the jar. Wipe rim with a clean wet cloth and put snap lid and screw cap on. Repeat until all the brine is in all the jars of cucumbers.

You can either a) pack all the jars with cucumbers then fill and cap or b) pack, fill and cap one jar then another. With the batch pictured here, I did (b).

With luck, your amounts of cucumbers and brine will match. If not, you’ve either got cucumbers left over for something else or brine you can keep if you’re going to do more pickling soon. If I need a little more brine to fill a jar, I quickly heat up a small amount of vinegar, water and salt. Then I mark that jar with a different coloured cap or make a small scratch on the lid. When I label them, I mark it as ‘use first’.

jars-in-canner-photo-d-stewart7. Make sure the screw caps are finger tight and put the jars back in the canner. Bring the water back to the boil. The water should come about one inch over the top of your jars. Let them boil for 10 minutes.

8. Carefully remove and put on a rack to cool. You’ll hear the snap lids pop soon. That tells you your seal is good. (On my handwritten recipe, shown here, overflowing the jar with brine and turning upside down is what you do with the old style glass lid sealing jars, not the metal snap lids.)

dill-pickles-photo-d-stewart9. When they’ve cooled, take the screw lids off.  Wipe the jars, especially around the top, with warm wet cloth or paper towel. You can put the rings back on, or not as long as the seal is good. Date them and put in a dark, cool place for 6 weeks.

Bread and Butter Pickles

Bread and butter pickles you buy in the store are thinly sliced bread and butter pickles photo d stewartrounds of cucumber only. But most of the recipes for them include sliced onion and sometimes chopped green pepper. I like them the way they come from the store, but I like making my own. So I adapted a good recipe I found online. I make them exactly as below, except I leave out the onion and increase the cucumber. It makes about 6 pint jars.

Recipe (Diana Rattray, thespruce.com)

  • Four Five lbs pickling cucumbers
  • 1 large onion, quartered, sliced abt. 1/4″ thickness
  • 1/3 cup kosher (coarse) salt
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes – optional

slicing-cucumber-photo-d-stewartWash cucumbers and cut off ends. Slice crosswise into 1/8″ slices. Toss in a large bowl with salt and onion; cover with 4-6 cups of ice cubes. Cover and let stand 4 hours or refrigerate overnight.

Boiling water bath:  Wash jars thoroughly and heat water in a small saucepan; put the lids in the saucepan and bring almost to the boil; lower heat to very low to keep the lids hot.

Making pickles: Drain cucumbers in a large colander and rinse with cold water.

pickles-in-pot-photo-d-stewartIn a large, nonreactive [stainless steel, glass, enamel] pot over medium heat, combine the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Add the drained cucumbers and bring to a boil.

Pack pickles in jars

With a slotted spoon, loosely pack the pickles into prepared jars. Ladle the liquid into jars, dividing evenly. With a clean damp cloth, wipe away any drips around the rims of the jars, and then cover with 2-piece jar lid and screw ring. A lid lifter comes in handy to get the bottling-pickles-photo-d-stewartflat lids out of the water, or you could use tongs. Adjust the screw on rings firmly but do not over-tighten.

Place filled jars in the prepared boiling water bath, adding more hot water as needed to bring the water up to about 1 inch above the jars. Bring the water to a boil. Cover and continue boiling for 10 minutes.

Lift the jars out of the water and place on a rack to cool. For best flavor development, store the pickles in a cool, dark place for at least 3 to 4 weeks.

A mandolin slicer (second pic) is great for cutting cucumbers.  My hints & hacks page has more on this wonderful tool. For these pickles, you can use small and large cukes. I’ve used regular field cucumbers and they worked fine. If you like long slices rather than rounds, cut the cukes lengthwise.

Fruit Crumble

baked fruit crumbleFruit Crumble is one of the easiest desserts to make – and very, very delicious. The one I made today is fresh rhubarb and frozen black cherries. The recipe comes from the Joy of Cooking.

Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C). 8 or 9 inch baking dish. 6 servings.

4 cups of prepared fruit

rhubarb and cherries in baking dishChop rhubarb into 1/2 to 1″ (1-2 cm.) lengths. Sugar it lightly. I used about 1 tsp for 2 cups of chopped rhubarb.

The cherries I used were already pitted. If not, you have to pit them.

(Sprinkle with 2 tbsp lemon juice or kirsch if you like)

Mix crumble topping in a bowl

crumble mixtureCombine ingredients below in a bowl. Work it together like pastry with a pastry blender or fingertips (I used a fork). Work it lightly so the mixture doesn’t get oily.

1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1/4 C butter (soft)
1/2 tsp salt – if butter is unsalted

crumble on fruit ready to bakeSpread crumble mix over fruit in baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes.

Serve hot or cold with ice cream, sweet cream (whipped or not) or sour cream.

You can also use other fruit, alone or in combination – strawberries, apples, peaches. For apples, you might want to add 1 tsp cinnamon to your crumble mixture.