Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pecan Toffee Bars



Simple ingredients and an uncomplicated recipe yields a pan full of yummy treats. Chewy/crisp caramel taste on the bottom, a thin layer of chocolate and a sprinkling of nuts combine in a wonderful harmony of flavours.
 

These bars keep well at room temperature in a sealed container for about a week, or freeze them for longer storage. If they hang around that long.

Pecan Toffee Bars

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 15 x 10 x 1 inch jelly roll pan. 
Beat together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well. Stir in flour until well blended. 
Spread dough evenly in pan - it will be thin. 
Bake 25 minutes until lightly browned. 
Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Return pan to oven for no more than 2 minutes. With an off set spatula spread the now melted chocolate evenly over the base. Sprinkle with pecans. When cool, cut into bars.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Salsa, Medium Hot




Tomato salsa with jalapeno and sweet bell peppers is a staple condiment around here. It's delicious as a usual companion of tortilla chips and tacos, but also wonderful on eggs, baked potatoes, added to soup for a zesty punch and more. 

I started with the recipe found in the Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving and have adapted the recipe to suit our tastes. The jalapenos mellow and don't add a lot of heat. That comes through the addition of chipotle pepper powder and cayenne pepper. 

Salsa, Medium Hot

8 cups of peeled, chopped tomatoes (Blanch the tomatoes, peel and core them, and roughly chop by hand or in the food processor)
2 cups coarsely chopped onions
8 jalapeno peppers, cut in half and seeded
1/2 medium green pepper, seeded
1/2 sweet red bell pepper, seeded
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup of fresh parsley sprigs
1/4 cup of fresh oregano leaves
1 can tomato paste
3/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Place the tomatoes and onions in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. 
Put the jalapeno peppers, green pepper, and sweet red pepper into the food processor. Pulse until finely chopped, but not pureed. Add to the pot.
On a cutting board, finely mince together the garlic cloves, parsley springs and oregano leaves. Add to the pot.
Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat and keep at a gentle simmer, uncovered, for about an hour and a half, or until the mixture is thickened and dark red in colour. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

Sterilize 5 pint jars and lids. Fill the jars to within 1/2 inch of the top rim. Wipe the rim with a damp cloth to clean, then seal with lids and screw tops. 

Place in a canning pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then process at a steady boil for 20 minutes. Remove from water with tongs and place on a towel covered countertop to cool completely. Check that all jars have sealed. Store in a cool, dark location.

Yields: 5 pints or so

Note to self: Made 4 recipes in 2014.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sausage, Green Bean and Sweet Potato Medley



The garden is bursting with green beans these days. I looked on line for some recipes using green beans. I wanted something that would feature vegetables since I love them so much. After reading quite a few recipes, I came up with this combination. It was good for dinner and I froze another dish of it for the future. I hope it thaws reasonably well. We'll see.

Sweet potatoes, green beans and Italian sausage combine with sauteed onions and peppers to make a very satisfying dish. 

Sausage, Green Bean and Sweet Potato Medley

1 pound mild (or hot) Italian sausage (I used turkey sausage)
3 cups of cut green beans (cut into 1 - 1 1/2 inch lengths)
3 cups of cubed and peeled sweet potato
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium sweet red pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the Italian sausage either by baking or frying, let cool, then slice 1/2 inch thick. 

Place the prepared green beans in a saucepan, add an inch of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer about 5 minutes until crisp tender. Drain and set aside.

Place the prepared sweet potato cubes in a saucepan, add an inch of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes until tender when pierced with a knife, but not mushy. Drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet. If you fry the sausages, you could use the drippings from that instead of the olive oil. Add the onion and red pepper and saute until tender but not brown. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add the oregano.

Combine the sausage, green beans, sweet potatoes, and sauteed onions and peppers in a large bowl. Stir gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place in an open baking dish and pour the chicken broth over top. Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Cover if baking longer. 

S

Friday, August 15, 2014

Zucchini Soup Base



Too much zucchini? It's the time of year when I go out to the garden and hope that I don't find another giant zucchini lurking under a leaf. Fortunately, there are many wonderful zucchini recipes out there for eating now and later. Making a soup base to freeze for later is one thing I do to cope with the glut of zucchini. It's fast and easy.

Zucchini Soup Base

1-2 medium onions, chopped
1 head (about 15 cloves) of garlic, peeled
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1-2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
10-12 cups (roughly) cut up zucchini
3-4 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onions and saute for several minutes. Add the garlic and continue sauteeing for another minute. Add the carrots, the zucchini, the chicken stock and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender. 
Remove the bay leaf (don't forget this step!). Puree the vegetables and broth with a stick blender or countertop blender. Cool and pour into containers to freeze.

I divided the amounts given in this recipe into three and froze it in quart jars, leaving space for expansion, so I'm guessing there are about 3 cups, maybe a little more, in each jar.

To serve, thaw the soup base, place in a saucepan and heat through. Add more chicken stock to thin the soup to your liking, season to taste with salt and pepper, and add about 1/2 cup light cream just before serving.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Watermelon Tomato Salad with Mint and Feta



Several years ago I printed out a list of 101 Simple Salads written by Mark Bittman from the New York Times. The list offered suggestions, not actual recipes. Brilliant. How many of us actually measure salad ingredients anyway? In the interest of precision, though, I'm writing out a rough recipe for my own memory. Perhaps you'll find it helpful, too.

This sweet/salty mixture of crisp watermelon cubes, chunks of juicy tomatoes, some salty feta cheese, and a sprinkle or two of chopped mint doesn't even need a dressing. I drizzled a little olive oil over top and called it quits. Delicious! Tim ate the leftovers from dinner just before going to bed last night. I'd call that a success.

Watermelon Tomato Salad with Mint and Feta

4 cups cubed watermelon (1-inch cubes)
2 medium-sized tomatoes, cored and cut into rough cubes
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 - 2 Tablespoons olive oil

Toss everything gently. Put into a bowl and serve. Easy peasy. 

I served it alongside grilled pork chops, potato salad and a grilled vegetable mixture (eggplant, red pepper, onion, mushrooms). 

edited: I've made this twice recently, once as above and once without the cheese, and using basil in place of mint, with a drizzle of basil garlic vinaigrette. Also a winner. This is a very adaptable salad.



Friday, July 4, 2014

Balsamic Roasted Vegetables



Several years ago a co-worker brought a similar dish to a potluck. It's a bit of a different twist on roasted vegetables. A balsamic vinaigrette is poured over the vegetables before they are roasted, resulting in more depth of flavour. This dish is great warm, cold, or hot. I'm planning on taking it on a camping trip soon.

The amounts given here are generous and will serve 8 - 10 people. Add or subtract vegetables as you like. I think butternut squash, sweet potatoes, yellow summer squash or mushrooms would be fine additions. You may have to adjust the baking times depending on the vegetables chosen.

Balsamic Roasted Vegetables

2 medium sized zucchini, ends trimmed and cut into a 1 inch dice
2 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into a 1 inch dice
1 large red or white onion, cut into a 1/4 inch dice
2 sweet red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
fresh basil or parsley

Combine the zucchini, eggplant, onion and peppers in a large bowl. 

Whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour over the vegetables. Hold about 1/4 cup back, for dressing the vegetables later, if desired. Use enough to coat the vegetables, but they shouldn't be sitting in a puddle of dressing

Spread on two rimmed baking sheets. Roast at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, then stir and continue roasting 10-15 minutes. The vegetables should be lightly browned and beginning to caramelize around the edges. 

Cool. Add 1-2 Tablespoons of fresh minced parsley or julienned basil just before serving.  
 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Strawberry Tart







Strawberry season is short. Oh, I know that I can buy those crunchy, tasteless, beautiful looking imported strawberries for many months of the year. I usually succumb once a year, then vow to never buy them again. Real strawberries are worth the wait: soft, juicy, impossibly sweet and flavorful.  And the scent - almost as sweet as the taste.

This tart showcases the best of local strawberries. There's little to distract from the intense berry flavor. A shortbread crust and some cream with a hint of lemon curd enhance the strawberry's true nature. This tart is best served the same day it's made, although if you have some leftover, it's not bad for breakfast. 

Strawberry Tart

1 baked and cooled shortbread crust (I used this recipe) in a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1/2 cup lemon curd
fresh strawberries, rinsed and dried, stems removed (about 2 cups, plus extra for garnish)
4 Tablespoons peach jam 
fresh mint (for garnish and for chewing on)

Whip the cream with the icing sugar until soft peaks start to form. Add the lemon curd and continue whipping for 15-20 seconds until incorporated. The mixture should retain its shape when a spoon is dragged through it.
Spread 1/2 of the cream and curd mixture onto the crust. 
Cut the strawberries in half from top to bottom and lay them in concentric rows on top of the cream, beginning with the outside of the crust.

Heat the peach jam slightly and strain it to get about 2 tablespoons of peach jam liquid. Drizzle the liquid over the berries.

Spoon the remaining cream/curd mixture around the top of the tart. Use extra berries and fresh mint as a garnish. Place in the refrigerator and chill for an hour before serving.