Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Favourite Things and Waffle Fail

The baby and I took a big trip to the next town over to check out the thrift store yesterday. [Sarcastic] Woo! I was hoping to find some furniture to make over, but everything was expensive (for a thrift store). An old second-hand kids bed for $230? C'mon. But I did find the above vintage waffle iron for $5. And this bowl that is really ugly but looks pretty with necklaces in it. 
Disclaimer: Not real pearls, so don't try to look me up and break into my house.
 Here's my first attempt at waffles. Fail. I forgot to grease the pan. All I could do was scrape it into a ball. My second attempt was better, but of course I didn't take a photo of it. 

Then, the score of the century... check out these throw cushions I got for $25 each from Ten Thousand Villages! I keep sneaking upstairs to the living room to look at them.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Three Corn Cornbread

I've shared my fascination with Southern cooking before. I know that no true Southerner would call this cornbread as there is sugar in it (see the North vs South cornbread debate here) but dag nabbit I love this stuff. We've got some serious corn going on here: cornmeal, corn kernels and creamed corn. Eat this with chili or stew now, and with barbecue in the summer.

Pssst... cornbread is also good with honey on it for breakfast. C'mon, it's no worse than eating cake for breakfast. Not that I've ever done that.

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated "More Best Recipes"
Makes one 8-inch square

Leftovers can be reheated wrapped in foil in a 350 degree F oven for 10-15 minutes.

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup creamed corn
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed if using frozen
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 butter, melted and cooled slightly

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 400 degrees F. Spray an 8-inch square baking tray with cooking spray. Whisk together dry ingredients (flour through to baking soda) in a medium bowl; set aside.

In a food processor or blender, process the buttermilk, corn kernels, and brown sugar until combined, about 5 seconds. Add the eggs and process until well combined (corn lumps will remain), about another 5 seconds.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold until dry ingredients are just moistened using a spatula. Just before completely combined, add butter. Pour into prepared baking dish, smoothing top. Bake until deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 25 to 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack until just warm, about 10 minutes longer. Cut into pieces and serve warm.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bulgar Salad

The snow is almost all melted. I even opened some windows in the house for a couple of hours yesterday. This makes me want salad. I made this tabbouleh-inspired salad for lunch yesterday and it was the perfect foil to the warmer weather.

Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern bulgar, parsley, and mint salad. I added some chickpeas and black beans as I had some in the fridge that needed to be used up, plus some red pepper and cabbage. The dressing is a lemon vinaigrette that is my go to for any salad. Keep this one in your back pocket.

See that green stuff on top of the salad in the photo? Looks fancy, right? Those are pea shoots. These are a revelation. It's just sprouted peas- as in, if you planted them in the garden you'd get a big bean stalk. I didn't know you could eat them just after they've sprouted. They taste like spring. Tender, crunchy, juicy, and refreshingly pea-y. We got them in our food box delivered from Pfennings this week (remember this post about local food? Now that I live in the boonies, having it delivered is easier than driving into town to pick it up every week). I've been picking off leaves and eating them like candy all week. If you do one thing this weekend, go find some pea shoots. Bonus points if you grow them yourself.

Pea Shoots growing in their little tray of dirt. See the little peas they are sprouting from?

2 servings
  • 1/2 cup bulgar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 small head cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
  • 1 carrot, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/2 can black beans, drained (optional)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • lemon vinaigrette - see below
  • 1 small bunch pea shoots

Combine bulgar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Drain any remaining water and rinse bulgar under cold water. Combine with remaining ingredients. Garnish with pea shoots.

Add more olive oil if you prefer it less tangy.
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • olive oil equal to the amount of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp honey
  • salt and pepper to season

Combine all in a jar and shake. Alternatively, combine all except oil in a bowl and whisk olive oil in a slow stream. Or use a blender.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Baked Rigatoni

Do you consider lasagna to be too much work to make? Baked rigatoni is lasagna's unpretentious and lazy cousin. You've still got meat sauce, melty cheese, and pasta, but it's not as fussy. The key to success here is slicing the cheese instead of grating it. I don't know why; the answer lies only with the pasta Gods.

My friend Courtney asked me for my baked ziti recipe recently. I had made it probably 5 years ago and then totally forgot about it. I didn't have the recipe anymore, so I've created a new one. This is just for you Courtney (ok fine, everyone else can have the recipe too).

Serves 8-10
Recipe can easily be halved

  • 900 g rigatoni or similar tubular pasta
  • 500 g lean ground beef
  • 650 ml jar of your favourite thick and chunky pasta sauce*
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 500 ml cottage cheese
  • 200 g mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 200 g provolone cheese, sliced
 Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta for half of the time stated on the package. Meanwhile brown beef in a large skillet. Drain liquid and add tomato sauce and tomatoes. Warm sauce until just starting to bubble. Mix meat sauce and pasta. Layer in a large baking dish half of pasta, top with cottage cheese and half of the sliced cheeses. Top with remaining pasta, then remaining cheese. Bake 40 minutes or until bubbling and cheese is starting to brown.

*I used this sauce that I love and buy all the time, but it was too thin. You want a hearty sauce here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Creamy Vegetable Soup

Creamy Vegetable Soup with Cheese Quesedilla
I hate creamed corn*, yet I now have created two recipes that contain this vile sludge and they are some of my favourite dishes. I had a half a can of creamed corn languishing in the fridge because it is the secret ingredient in my cornbread recipe (another post for another day). The cornbread only takes half the can, so what to do with the rest? Usually I just throw it out right away, but I saved it this time because I figured I'd make more cornbread. Obviously I didn't make the cornbread but I'm glad I saved it, because it lead to the discovery that pureed creamed corn will make soup creamy without adding any cream, and add a pleasant corny flavor.

This is a clean out the fridge soup. You can use pretty much any vegetable in this soup that is lurking in your fridge. I had broccoli stalks- I save the stalks for soup when I use the florets for something else, half a can of tomatoes, and a leek. You can puree the soup with an immersion blender rather than a regular blender, but it won't get as smooth, especially if you have included something fibrous like broccoli. If you want your soup really smooth you can run it through a sieve, but that's too much work for me.

*I attribute this to one of two things: my brother, who loves vinegar, would always drown his creamed corn in vinegar when we were kids (I know, it's so weird and wrong), or because we always had creamed corn on fish sticks night (I hated fish sticks and haven't eaten them since I hit puberty).

One Year Ago: Nothing. Posts were pretty few and far between this time last year as I was in early pregnancy and could only stomach toast most of the time

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 14 oz canned tomatoes- diced, whole, etc... whatever you have on hand
  • 2 broccoli stalks, chopped
  • 1 leek, light green and white parts only, cleaned well and chopped
  • 200 ml creamed corn
  • salt and pepper 
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano

Combine everything in a pot and bring to a boil- the milk may separate, but it's going to pureed in the end so that's ok. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until vegetables are tender. Puree in a blender, half of the soup at a time. Adjust seasoning if necessary.