Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Freezer Meals

Here is my cure for waiting-for-baby boredom- clean things you normally wouldn't clean, rearrange cupboards, and cook lots of food to freeze for when you're too tired to cook after baby arrives. The first two are both cathartic and problematic. Problematic in that cleaning really dirty things- like the grates on your gas stove- takes elbow grease and now my back is sore(-er), and rearranging cupboards leads to daily conversations like this:

Tyler: Where is the {insert object here}?
Me: It's in the cupboard to the right of the stove
Tyler: Didn't it used to be in the cupboard to the left of the stove?
Me: Yes, but I moved it. It's better where it is now.
Tyler: Oh my God you're making me crazy.

As for the freezer situation, I had a whole list of things to make for the freezer but I had to stop short because we've run out of room. In both the deep freeze in the garage (it's just a small one!) and the regular freezer in the kitchen. If you want some back up meals- once in a while I'll spend a few hours on the weekend making something to freeze for later in the week- or you want to go on a cooking binge like me, below is what I've made. So far. I think if I eat the half carton of ice cream that's in there I'll have room for one more dish.

Makes 8 to 10 empanadas, a dinner serving being 2 or 3 per person

- Empanadas are a hand pie from the Caribbean and South America. They can be eaten as a snack or a main with a salad on the side. The filling can be pretty much anything- I've included at the bottom a variation with black bean and sweet potato that I've made before and didn't fulfill my promise to share the recipe.

- Although the pastry below is delicious and pretty easy, I've seen recipes that call for store-bought pie dough (like Pilsbury) instead, if you prefer.

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cake and pastry flour (or just use another 1/4 cup of regular flour)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cold egg
  • 1/3 cup ice cold water
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar

  • 1 pound simmering steak, such as outside round
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 3/4 cup salsa (use mild or medium unless you're brave as hot salsa will cook down and be suicide hot)
  • 1 medium leek, sliced in half, washed well, then sliced into half moons
  • 1 large jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed or still frozen
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup Monterey Jack or white Cheddar cheese

Place flour, butter, butter, salt in a food processor and pulse a few times until butter is the size of peas. Mix egg, water, vinegar together in a small bowl, add all at once to flour mixture with motor running, process until dough just starts to come together. Turn dough out onto counter and gather into a ball. Divide in half and flatten each into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Sear steak in 1 tbsp of oil in a pan over medium-high heat 3 minutes per side. Add broth and salsa, reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer 1 hour partially covered, or until meat is tender and can be shredded with a fork. If, like me, you couldn't get the heat right and ended up boiling your steak or bought the wrong type of meat and therefore it won't shred, just chop it up really small and mix into sauce again.

Remove sauce and meat from pan into a bowl. Heat remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat, add leeks and jalapeno. Cook until softened but not browned. Add peas, cook until peas are heated through. Mix vegetables into meat and sauce. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Cut 6 to 7 inch circles (I used a dessert plate as a guide)*. Whisk egg lightly in a small bowl. Working with one circle at a time, brush 1-inch of edge with egg wash. Place 2 heaping tablespoons filling on one half.

Fold dough over to make a half moon. Press edges to seal, then starting at one corner fold bottom edge of dough over top to ensure a good seal. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper (or with plastic wrap if you're going to freeze these). Repeat filling dough, roll the second half, and fill as well.

Brush tops of pastries with remaining egg wash. Top each with cheese. Using a paring knife, cut two steam vents in the top of each. Freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet until solid and then store in a freezer bag, or bake right away at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes or until golden. To cook frozen empanadas, bake from frozen but add about 10 minutes to cooking time.

*You're not really supposed to re-roll the scraps of dough after cutting the first time as it supposedly makes the dough tough and not as flaky, but I do reuse the scraps. I can't tell much of a difference and let's face it, you're not making these every day so you may as well make as many as you can, right?

  • 1 cooked sweet potato, peeled
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp hot sauce
  • salt and pepper 
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese, whizzed briefly in food processor

Crush beans with a potato masher, ensuring they still have some texture. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add jalapeno and garlic, saute 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add cumin and coriander, saute 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add sweet potato, lime juice, and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in cheese.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gangsta's Paradise

Apparently, the Gangsta's Paradise is the kitchen. I have based this conclusion on the fact that Coolio has a cookbook. That's right. Coolio. Has. A. Cook. Book. This is almost as awesome as if Mr T had a cook book (I pity the fool who under seasons a dish). And equally as awesome as Christopher Walken's video on how to roast a chicken.

The photo above is a preview of the first page of the book on Amazon. And really, who doesn't want to become a kitchen pimp? I certainly do.

All jokes aside, I actually really want to make these Strawberry Banana Muffins from the book. Which also makes me want to buy the book if Coolio is making muffins this good. What is the world coming to?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ham, Swiss and Asparagus Crepes

Two posts today! Aren't you all lucky! I made this for lunch when my Grannie came to visit a few months ago. Remember how hot it was in May? We had a perfect afternoon sitting out on the desk under the gazebo for a few hours. This recipe is perfect for a light lunch or brunch. We also had a simple baby spinach salad on the side- just baby spinach tossed with a quick lemon vinaigrette.

You don't have to make the crepes from scratch; you can purchase crepes at the grocery store but I can't attest to the quality. Homemade crepes are not as tricky as you think, I swear! Here's a short how-to video. Give it a try. The first few attempts may not be pretty, but they'll still taste good anyway, and you'll get the hang of it in no time! Maybe I'm weird, but I think making crepes is fun.

The recipe below is from a cooking class that I took my dad to for his birthday. We had a fantastic day cooking and eating at Log Cabin Heaven in Elora a couple of years ago. The lessons were private and hands on at Ontario's only private B&B. We chose in advance what type of cuisine we wanted to cook- we did French in the morning and Greek in the afternoon. I could go on and on about this place and the great time we had.

Any leftover crepes can be filled with lemon juice and sugar, Nutella, or berries for dessert (or breakfast, or a snack), I've even used crepes for ham and cheese "sandwiches" for lunch at work. They can also be frozen between waxed paper which makes it easy to just take out 1 or 2 whenever you like.

Makes 12-16 crepes
Recipe courtesy of Log Cabin Heaven
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly

Whisk together all ingredients in a bowl, or mix in a food processor, until just combined. Transfer to something with a spout for easy pouring. Let batter rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Heat a crepe pan or small skillet over medium-low heat. Using a paper towel lightly dipped in canola oil, lightly oil pan. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of batter (depending on how big your pan is) into the pan, turning pan to spread batter around evenly at the same time. Cook until edges of crepe start to get a little crispy and top of crepe looks set. Flip and cook other side of crepe for 30 seconds. Turn onto a plate to cool while you cook the next crepe, then transfer the cooled crepe to a square of waxed paper. Continue cooking and stacking crepes on new sheets of waxed paper until all batter is used up and you'll be an expert!

  • 3 to 4 crepes per person
  • sliced Swiss cheese
  • sliced ham
  • 3 asparagus spears per crepe, washed and trimmed of tough ends
  • Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard on a crepe. Top with cheese, ham, asparagus, with asparagus tips peeking out of one end for a pretty presentation. Roll up crepe, place in a large glass baking dish. Continue filling and rolling crepes, placing in baking dish in a single layer. Cover with foil and bake until warmed through, 15-20 minutes.

Vanilla Iced Coffee

I love iced coffee in the summer, but I never have time to stop for coffee on my way to work. I've tried to make iced coffee at home before and it's ok, but not stellar. If these issues plague your access to good iced coffee as well, here is your solution. Inspired by a small article in Food and Wine Magazine on cold-brewing coffee, I figured out how to make amazing iced coffee at home! This is not just cold coffee people. There is a method and a recipe. You can thank me later.

Recipe makes 1 serving, but method for coffee base and simple syrup is enough for multiple servings.
  • 1/2 cup cold-brewed coffee
  • 2-3 tbsp vanilla simple syrup
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • ice cubes
To make cold-brewed coffee: Stir together 1/2 a pound of coarsely ground coffee with 4 cups of cold water. Cover and let stand 24 hours at room temperature, then strain. Keep in fridge for up to 1 week.

To make vanilla simple syrup: Pour 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water into a saucepan. Add one vanilla bean* that has been halved lengthwise. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring once or twice. Remove from heat and cool. Store in a jar in the fridge.

Stir together all ingredients for iced coffee in a tall glass. I think it tates better drunk through a bendy straw, but that's just me (I'm sure of it). Sadly, as you can see from the photo, I am currently straw-less.

* I have found that the best place to buy vanilla beans is at Bulk Barn. They are half the price there as at the grocery store. Look for them by the cash register in a glass tube. There's usually 2-3 per tube for $3.50, I think.