Category Archives: Recipes

Beef in Brine

beef in brine package photo d stewartI accidentally made Jigg’s dinner for St. Patrick’s Day. First time ever. Husband comes home with groceries: “look what I found, beef 50% off.” Beef in brine, the package said. What’s that?

It was pieces, so didn’t look like corned beef. Big pieces, so not like salt beef I’d seen before. And it was not in a pail. Too bad, because a pail would probably the only thing we were going to get from this ‘bargain’!

No cooking directions on the package. Tony’s Meats website had the package of beef in brine, alongside pails of salt beef. No recipes, but at least I knew they were two different things. Googling introduced me to a whole world of brining meat. But precious little on what to do with it once it’s brined.

From what I read, I figured out a tactic. It worked, so here’s my surprisingly easy sort-of Jigg’s dinner.

Beef in Brine Jigg’s Dinner

Take beef out of the package and put in a bowl of cold water. Soak it, changing the water a couple of times. I did it for 10 minutes. You could soak it longer, but that worked fine.

salt-beef-in-water-and-beer photo d stewartRinse beef and put in a large pot. (Leave the fat on. It will largely cook away.) Cover with water or water and beer. Recipes called for a bottle of dark beer. I used Alpine lager.

Bring to the boiling point and let simmer an hour. Skim off froth as needed.

simmering-beef-with-veggies-photo-d-stewartAdd chunks of potatoes, carrots and onions. Turnip too, but I didn’t have any. Simmer for half an hour.

Add chunks of cabbage and let simmer another half hour. I added no seasonings – certainly no salt! And that’s it.

Put the meat on a platter to slice (across the grain). Scoop the vegetables into a big bowl. And serve. Mustard or mustard pickle goes really well with it.slicing-brined-beef-photo-d-stewart

I froze the liquid for use as beef stock. But remember, it’s already salty.

beef in brine dinner-photo-d-stewartI’m happy that I have finally cooked salt beef. It’s a cooking hurdle that I never would have taken on if I’d known that’s what I was doing! So I’ll try it again. And next time, I’ll make pease pudding with it. Then it would be a real Newfoundland Jigg’s dinner.

Cream Soup

In The Birthday Lunch, Laverne makes asparagus and Stilton soup and Coquille St. Jacques for her sister. How delicious!

Cream soup makes a warm and hearty winter meal or cool and light for summer. Comfort food always. With warm bread or salad, it’s a meal in itself. Or, as Laverne did, it’s great with another course. I don’t think I’d pair two creamy dishes, though, lovely as both these are. She served them with a dry white wine – that would work.

cream-soup-photo-d-stewart For a cream soup, stick with one or two main ingredients so that the flavour is true. Asparagus and cheese, mushroom, potato and ham. Unless you have little bits of a lot of different vegetables that you want to get rid of. Then you can call it cream of vegetable soup. In the photo is my cream of zucchini soup topped with slivered green onion.

How to make Cream Soup

(4 servings, adjust accordingly)

Melt 1 tbsp butter or margarine in heavy-bottomed pot. Sauté 2-3 tbsp finely chopped onion, and garlic if you wish.

Add 1-2 cup chopped vegetables. Sauté a couple minutes until they soften. Remove and set aside. For cream of chicken, include chopped chicken pieces in that amount. Make sure the chicken cooks thoroughly.

Melt a bit more butter or margarine in your pot, then add 2 tbsp flour and stir briskly to mix. Cook this roux a couple minutes, stirring constantly, until it bubbles and thickens.

Slowly add 2-3 C milk, turn down heat and stir frequently to avoid lumps and keep it from boiling. Cook until it starts thickening.

Add grated cheese (1/4-1/3 cup) if you want a more robust soup. Sour cream can be added to give more body and a lovely piquant taste.

Put the veggies and meat back in the pot. Mix well and heat through.

Use an immersion blender, or pour soup into blender, and puree. Make it as smooth or chunky as you wish. Put back in pot and add some finely chopped vegetables to give texture, if you wish. Reheat over low to medium temperature.

A dollop of sour cream on top is good. Also sprinkle with chopped parsley, green onion, chives or cilantro, croutons or bacon bits, whichever complements the flavour. Serve hot or cold, depending on the soup.

Cream Cheese Spread

My mother-in-law made us a book of family recipes. One is her mother’s recipe for cream cheese, olives and nuts sandwich spread.

cream cheese spread photo d stewart That looks good, I’d think every time I saw the recipe, must make that. But I did so only recently. Oh, l regret those wasted years!

cream cheese olive spread elizabeth smock* My second time making it, I also added plain yoghurt, about half the amount of mayonnaise. It made it creamier with a little tangy taste. I didn’t add olive juice, as in Heloise’s recipe below. That may give the softer texture I was looking for.

mixing-cream cheese olives and nuts -photo-d-stewartCrushed walnuts or pecans are best. I only had sliced almonds first time I made it. My husband said it’s good but doesn’t taste like grandma’s. Second time, with walnuts, he pronounced it as good as hers.

Googling cream cheese and olive spread

olive cream cheese spread-toasted-rye-photo-d-stewartI googled it to see if anyone other than grandma Elizabeth had ever made this. Have they! Apparently, it’s part of Christmas and Thanksgiving and all special events in the United States, especially in the South. It’s good for everyday sandwiches but also can be dressed up as fancy as you like. In tea sandwiches, little pinwheels, on toast points, stuffed in or on vegetables.

I leave the last word on cream cheese and olive spread to Heloise, of Heloise’s Hints. She explains its joys and versatility ever so well. Thanks, Chipmunknits, for posting this treasure. Tap to enlarge so you can read it. I especially like the story of the neighbour hiding her container of it in the back of the fridge so her kids don’t find it.hints from heloise chipmunknits.blogspot.com_2010_01_heloise-olive-spread

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.

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.

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.

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. You can also use frozen or tinned fruit.