Thursday, January 31, 2013

Slow Cooker Tangy Pulled Pork

I had some pork tenderloin in the freezer that I needed to use up. The first thing that came to mind was pulled pork of course! This is really easy, delicious and I know my family likes pulled pork, so it was pretty much guaranteed to please them. By the end of cooking, the sauce got nice and thick. I added some water in the middle of cooking because the sauce was getting a bit thick. 1/2 a cup was just enough for 4 hours of cooking. If you cook it any longer you may need to add a bit more liquid to keep it moist. But by 4 hours the meat was perfect.




Slow Cooker Tangy Pulled Pork
Adapted from tasteofhome
6-8 servings

Ingredients
2 pork tenderloins (about 1 lb each)
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grainy Dijon mustard
1/2 cup water
red chili flakes or hot sauce (optional)

Directions
Place the pork in the slow cooker.

Mix all the other ingredients together and pour it over the pork. Lift the pork up a bit so the sauce can get under it.

Cook on low for 4 hours. Once cooked, shred the meat with 2 forks and stir it around in the sauce. Serve it on toasted buns if you like.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Chocolate Caramel Sauce

Finally, after trying 3 times I managed to make a caramel sauce that's thick like it should be!And it really doesn't take much effort, you just have to get the timing right on the sugar so it doesn't burn and become bitter.




Chocolate Caramel Sauce
Makes about 1/2 cup (I didn't measure)

Ingredients
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup 1/2 &1/2 cream, room temp
1 teaspoon cocoa

Directions
Place a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium low heat and add the sugar spreading it evenly over the bottom of the pot.

Once you see the sugar starting to melt along the edges, watch it carefully. You can start swirling it around every now and then. When the sugar melts completely and starts bubbling remove it from the heat. Don't let it get too dark because that means it's burnt and it will taste terrible. Really REALLY pay attention to the colour. A light golden colour is perfect.

Now, as soon as you remove the pot from the heat whisk in the butter. Once the butter is melted and stirred in, slowly add the cream whisking the entire time. Be careful here and don't put your face close to the pot, it will bubble up. That's why it's important to use a large pot. Finally whisk in the cocoa until well combined.

That's it. Now let it cool and it will become thick!

Breakfast

I never skip breakfast. I never really skip any meal for that matter. I love food! During the week I pack breakfast for work. Here are some of the things I like to eat for breakfast. I eat a lot of boiled eggs because they're easy to prepare, but my favourite breakfast is feta cheese with bread. I buy it marinated or I marinate it myself. Sometimes I put olives or peppers in it. 

I love this breakfast. This was my mom's idea and it's so simple.
A nice buttery croissant with Emental, sliced cucumbers, salt and pepper. That's it!
My kids love it too. My kids are crazy about croissants and cucumbers.

Sometimes a girl just needs a doughnut!

I roasted some red peppers and boiled some eggs then served it all up on a weight watchers bagel the next morning. Okay, it's a bit healthier than a doughnut!

For the low carbers, how about some stacks.
Cucumbers, turkey pepperoni, cheddar and boiled eggs.

Here's another way to bake eggs. Instead of using a muffin tin and having to remove the eggs from them, place the eggs in their own silicone liners and bake them at 350F until they're cooked the way you like them. They reheat nicely the next day and are easy to pack since they're already in their own cup.

How about peanut butter and bananas?

My favourite, marinated feta. Sometimes I eat it with croissants, or whatever other kind of bread I'm in the mood for.

And there's always cereal! Pack the milk separately of course, and it's easy enough to take to work. Just slice a banana over the top at the last minute.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Creamy Mushroom Sauce (from scratch)

No canned soup here! I like making this sauce whenever I’m making breaded chicken or pork chops. I coat the meat with egg and then breadcrumbs, and fry it lightly in a bit of oil or butter. Okay, not really diet food, but my family likes it every now and then. So I make pasta and of course that means there has to be a sauce. We like cream sauces and this would be a nice alternative to your cheddar mac & cheese. I didn’t add salt because sometimes cheese is salty already. Taste your sauce at the end and decide if you need to salt it.


This made enough for 4 bowls of pasta. I didn’t measure the finished product though.



Creamy Mushroom Sauce
4 servings

Ingredients
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, thinly sliced or diced
4oz button mushrooms, sliced
1 heaping tablespoon flour
½ teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups 2% milk (or more)
1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Directions
If you’re frying up some chicken or pork chops then use the same pan. The crusty bits on the bottom from the meat will be tasty in your sauce. Don’t clean the pan! If you’re just making the sauce, your pan will start off clean (obviously). Either way, add the butter to the pan over medium high heat.

Fry the onions and mushrooms in the butter until they get soft and the onions start to brown slightly. If the pan seems a bit dry at this point, add a little butter.

Stir the flour, pepper and nutmeg into the mushroom mixture, then, pour the milk in. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Once it starts bubbling, keep stirring until it thickens. You can add more milk if it’s too thick for your liking.

Once it’s thick, stir in the cheese. If you stir in the cheese before it thickens it looks almost curdled, so make sure the sauce has thickened first.

I buy the cheese in chunks and grate it myself, or our deli grates it and you can buy it in containers already grated. Of course there’s the canned stuff in the spaghetti sauce aisle, but the flavour is not the same. I’m not even sure it’ll melt into the sauce the same way? 

If there are leftovers, store the pasta and the sauce separately  Heat both and mix before serving. If you mix it and then refrigerate it won't be very creamy.

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup (2)


This soup is slightly different from the recipe I posted in 2010, also titled Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup. This version doesn't have cinnamon or chickpeas but I added paprika instead. I used Campbell ’s No Salt Added Chicken Broth, and it seemed a little bland. Normally I use the lower salt one, but then they came out with the no salt and I had to give it a try. I added my own salt, maybe it wasn't enough. You be the judge of your own soup, but either way, it was still yummy.

We also thought maybe the tomatoes weren't as flavourful at this time of year, and decided that we might use canned ones next time until tomato season rolls around. I love roasted peppers though. I put them on my bagel with cream cheese for breakfast and you can put them on sandwiches too. They add a really nice flavour. You can also used the ones in the jar for this soup.






Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup (2)
6-8 servings

Ingredients
4 large red bell peppers
4 large ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon butter or oil
1 medium onion, diced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1 box no salt chicken broth (about 4 cups)
1 cup half & half cream
Handful of fresh basil, chopped

Directions
Place the peppers and tomatoes on a hot grill, or in a preheated 425F oven (on foil). Grill or bake for as long as it takes the tomatoes and peppers to get charred and soft. The tomatoes will take much less time. Check on them after 10 minutes. You don’t want them to fall apart or lose all the juice.

Transfer the grilled veggies to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to let them steam a bit. The skin should peel right off. Remove the core from the tomatoes and the stems/seeds from the peppers as well.

Roughly chop the tomatoes and 3 of the peppers. I did this in a large bowl so I didn't lose any of the juices. Set them aside. You don’t need to get fancy here as you’re going to puree the soup later.

Chop the other pepper into smaller pieces; we’ll add these to the soup after the rest has been pureed.
Heat a pot over medium high heat and cook the onions in butter until they start to turn golden. Stir them regularly.

Now stir in the salt, pepper and paprika and cook for a minute more. Stir in the tomatoes and roughly chopped peppers, followed by the broth. Simmer this for about 10 minutes. You can add some of the basil if you want, but save most of it for the end.

Using a hand blender, puree the soup until it’s smooth. You can also use a blender for this and then transfer it back to the pot.

Stir in the cream and the rest of the peppers and basil. Bring it back up to a simmer. Serve hot.  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I'm in the Club!

The Secret Recipe Club that is! My task will be to choose recipe from another blog and make it. I can hardly wait to see which blog I get assigned to. My first post will go up on February 11th at 12pm (EST) so stayed tuned!


Secret Recipe Club

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Flax Crackers

Back in August 2011 was the last time I made flax crackers. They were Low Carb Parmesan Flax Crackers and I was on a low carb diet. Last week I thought I might try low carbing again, but it only lasted 2 days. I was desperate for sugar. I have a sugar problem! Anyway, during those 2 days I made more flax crackers. This time I left them plain. No cheese or seasoning went into these and only a low carber desperate for crunch can appreciate these I think. They taste like flax, and it makes sense since flax and water are the only 2 ingredients I used to make them. I didn't measure. How many crackers you get out of this depends on how much dough you make.

Flax is good for you, so why not try using these crackers to replace your regular crackers for dips or cheese and cracker cravings.




Flax Crackers

Ingredients
flax seeds
cold water

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone liner.
I tried to use a food processor to grind the flax seeds. It doesn't work. You need a magic bullet or a spice grinder for this, otherwise buy your flax already ground.

Mix the ground flax with water. Use a little bit at a time until it forms a dough. It'll be a little sticky, but hold together nicely.

Place the dough on the prepared baking sheet and place another piece of parchment on top. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough to the desired thickness. Obviously if you roll them too thin they will cook faster so you really need to watch them or they'll burn. Remove the top paper and use a knife to gently slice the dough into squares. Once baked, they'll snap apart so you don't need to press too hard and ruin your pan. Use a fork to poke little holes if you want.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until they start turning brown around the edges.Allow to cool on a wire rack completely before snapping the crackers apart. Store in an airtight container.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Buttermilk Pancakes

I originally bought buttermilk to make Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits for Christmas but we can only get 500ml cartons here. You don't need that much for a single recipe of biscuits, so I decided to make some buttermilk pancakes a few days later. I took my favourite Fluffy Pancake recipe and changed it up a bit.

Then I found a Christmas pancake pan for $2.44 at an end of season clearance sale. Next time I make pancakes I'll use my new toy. So what if Christmas is still a year away!





Buttermilk Pancakes
Makes about 10 pancakes

Ingredients
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled

more butter or cooking spray for frying

Directions
In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients with a whisk. Make a well in the centre and add the buttermilk, eggs and butter then whisk until well combined. It's okay if it's a bit lumpy.

Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Brush the pan with some butter. Drop 3 or 4 pancakes into the pan. I use about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake but you can make them bigger if you like.


Cook for a few minutes until bubbles appear on the surface, flip and continue to cook for another minute or two until the second side is golden. Set aside and repeat until all the batter is done. If you're making a larger batch, heat the oven to 200F and keep a plate in the oven. Transfer the cooked pancakes to the plate until you're ready to eat.

Drizzle with your favourite syrup or fresh fruit.


Linking To

Friday, January 4, 2013

Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits - From Scratch

I made Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits for Christmas, and I forgot to add the Cheddar! I was in a rush to get the dough together. Oops! I couldn't believe it! I'll include the cheddar in the recipe, but if you leave it out you'll still end up with some very nice buttermilk biscuits! Also, I used buttermilk instead of regular milk.



Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits
Adapted from Food & Family
Makes 12 biscuits

Ingredients
2 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/3 cup cold butter, cut into chunks
1 heaping cup grated cheddar
1/2 – 2/3 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoon canola oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone liner.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and garlic powder. Then, using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it gets crumbly.

Stir in the cheese. Measure the buttermilk (start with 1/2 cup) and then stir the oil into it. Pour the wet mixture into the crumbly flour mixture and stir until it comes together. It shouldn't be sticky but it should hold together and you should be able to scoop it. You can add more buttermilk if it seems too dry.

Drop 12 equal portions of the batter onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until they turn golden.

While the biscuits are baking, mix the garlic powder and parsley into the melted butter.

Once the biscuits come out of the oven, brush them immediately with the melted butter. Serve warm.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Christmas 2012

Christmas is really my favourite time of year. I can't believe it's over! I love Christmas so much!

My family is pretty small, but my generation has been expanding our family pretty rapidly over the past few years. It was so nice to have 7 small children at Christmas this year. There were years when we didn't have any children at Christmas. Up until 5 years ago when I had my first daughter, the youngest person in our family was about 15.

When I was small, I remember every year a different person would host Christmas. The host would cook the main dishes like the turkey, and everyone else would bring something. Everyone had their speciality too. People would put in their requests for people to make certain items. Some of them we only got to eat once a year!

Life is full of ups and downs for everyone, and as time went on, my mom ended up having Christmas at her place every year. This has been going on for about 10 years now I think. And over the years I became in charge of desserts and appetizers. The past 2 years though, my cousin Jessica, has taken over some of the cookies and appetizers. The result is TOO MUCH FOOD. As I said, my family is small. Most of the extended family like great aunts, uncles and cousins have their own dinners on Christmas Eve. We were only 11 adults and 7 children this year, and I think most of us were already full from eating dips by the time the dinner was ready. But because so much time and effort goes into making such a big feast, we had to gobble it up anyway, no matter how tight our pants got.

Every year we say we're going to cut back. Actually, my mom did cut back this year (when I say this year I mean last year - it's 2013 now). She usually makes a giant pot of Kapusta (that's a Polish sauerkraut and kielbasa dish that she cooks for days), and even though it's not my favourite, it was kind of weird not seeing it on the table. She even threatened to make stuffed chicken breasts instead of turkey, but lucky for me, she found a turkey on sale and I got my turkey in the end! It just wouldn't feel like Christmas without the turkey and all the other things we've gotten used to making.

This year we made way too many cookies. We brought some to work and we gave them all our family members to take home. I thought we should have had a bake sale with all those cookies. Maybe next year!

Here are some pictures of what we made this year. There were 3 of us. My cousin Jessica, our friend Pavlina (who I consider part of our family) and myself. Many of the recipes we used are listed on my blog, including Pavlina's Christmas Cake and the cherry cheesecake. You can find them under the "Recipe Index" tab.

Christmas Cookies.






 
Here's the feast. Turkey, Roladen, Cabbage Rolls, Stuffing, Meatloaf, an assortment of veggies, Macaroni salad, cranberry sauce and of course gravy.

Shrimp Spread, Spinach Dip, Corn Dip, Roasted Red Pepper Dip
I believe I have all 4 recipes posted on my blog.

Me on the left and Pavlina on the right. Baking the Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Chip cookies.

The girls set the table for Persian Christmas. Everyone even got a little candy cane on their plate. For Persian Christmas i served up a roast with a giant mountain of mashed potatoes and gravy along with Pavlina's Broccoli Salad and cheddar biscuits (but I forgot to add the cheddar).

I got this fun idea from Pinterest. I saw a tiny gingerbread house cookie set on the side of a mug, so I thought I'd try it with a star.
 
I served up the same selection on Persian Christmas.
Every year I host my in-laws who are from Iran. I call it Persian Christmas. Christmas with my family has and always will be on the 24th. Sometimes Persian Christmas is on Christmas day, but this year we waited until the 26th because my Sister-in-law and brother-in-law were coming up from Virginia.

We served up a gingerbread man for Santa too. Here you see the elves waiting for Santa to pick them up on Christmas Eve.

A few days before Christmas, the elves made doughnuts.

I saw these on Pinterest too. All you do is either dip them in melted chocolate (or Nutella) and add a few sprinkles. The pink is frosting from a tube. You can use any O shaped cereal. These were Apple Jacks because that's the only O cereal I had at the time.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pavlina's Broccoli Salad

You'll never see broccoli the same way again when you make this salad! Raw broccoli that is. It's hard to get it down, even with dip. Raw broccoli is so dry. The simple dressing that goes into this salad makes it feel almost like the broccoli is partially cooked, but it's not! I'm addicted to this salad!

You can also make this with different cheeses. I think Parmesan would be nice! How about adding some croutons? It'll be like a broccoli Caesar! When Lina first brought it over, she used a white cheese. At home I had cheddar, so that's what I used. I added some pepper too. The second time I made it I added some Frenches fried onions, but if you're using those, you need to add them at the last minute or they'll get soggy. Lina also made us her delicious Christmas cake again. So good!

I usually use Miracle Whip at home because it's lower in calories, but you can use any mayo that you like.

Here's the salad the first time I made it.

I always cook my bacon in the oven. On foil, 425F until crisp.
Drain it on paper towel before breaking it up. No messy stove!



Here's the salad I made with fried onions on it.


Pavlina's Broccoli Salad
4-6 servings

Ingredients
2 tablespoons Miracle Whip
1 tablespoon white vinegar (you can also use balsamic)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
black pepper
1 head of broccoli, washed and cut into bite size pieces
3/4 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar)
3 strips of bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
Frenches fried onions (optional)

Directions
Mix the Miracle Whip, vinegar, brown sugar and pepper in a large bowl until combined. You shouldn't need salt if your bacon is already salty. Taste it and decide for yourself.

Stir the broccoli into the dressing and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour. Make sure the broccoli is dry first. I place mine on paper towel for a bit once it's washed and cut up.

Next, stir in most of the bacon and cheese (reserving some for the top if you want). Refrigerate until ready to serve. The sooner you serve it the crispier the bacon will be, but I like eating it the next day too!

Linking to
Fantastic Thursday