Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cooking for the End of the World...AKA a million soup recipes...

I love books...especially reference books...
It's gotten so bad I actually have to limit my exposure to
I could literally spend a small country's national debt on that site alone!!!

One of these books from Amazon was all about storing food for emergency purposes.

A large part of this book was about reconstituting dried foods for cooking.
I was intrigued.  We do store a lot of food, but drying isn't one of the ways we usually do it.
(It's one of my resolutions for become more comfortable with drying food)
Mostly we just freeze or jar our food.  In the fall, I aim to make a bunch of soup when the fall veggies are ripe and freeze them in Becel containers.

We have bags of dried beans, but I prefer to work with canned.
The big problem I have with canned beans is that they are packed in salt or preservatives.

So I decided to try reconstituting for the first time!

I soaked 4 cups of mixed beans over night....kind of anti-climactic...

Those above are the beans after I had soaked and rinsed them.

I looked up several recipes online in places like seaching under the tag "mixed bean soups".

I found LOADS of recipes to choose from...but many of them called for a pork shank.
I didn't want to rely on having a shank laying around...that and the beans themselves are full of proteins already....why add more?
I found a few recipes that didn't call for a pork shank...just to mix thing up a little.

I had both varieties of soup going at the same in a slow cooker and one of the stove in a pot.


2 cups beans 
4 cups water
1 chopped onion
1  1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic salt
Soak beans overnight - or - boil for one hour. See Soaking Dry Beans. Rinse beans. Add all ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 hours or until beans are tender. Serve with chips, cheese, sour cream if desired.

1 1/2 c. Ten Bean Soup Mix
4 c. water
2 (10 oz.) cans chicken broth
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 lb. smoked sausage, thinly sliced (i used mild italian spiced turkey sausages)
1 lg. onion, chopped
1 (14 oz.) can tomatoes, chopped
-Sort and wash beans, place in large Dutch oven and cover with water 2 inches above beans.
-Soak beans overnight.
-Drain beans, add 4 cups water, chicken broth, garlic and pepper.
-Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender.
-Add remaining ingredients and simmer an additional 30 minutes. Yield: 2 1/2 quarts.

Of the two bean recipes, the sausage one turned out to be more of a crowd pleaser.
You can't always see what everyone will like until you try it.

My only advise for that is don't make 16 servings of anything until you've tried a portion of the recipe to start.
It feels like a waste of ingredients and a lot of space in your freezer.


Here are some other recipes I made this fall for the freezer...
They are great to make ahead and hearty for the whole family.


Mean Green Broccoli Soup

1 large stalk of broccoli
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 sm onion chopped
2 tbsp sharp cheddar cubed
1/4 cup wild & brown rice cooked
6 cups chicken or veg broth
2 tbsp lemon juice
S & P to taste
pinch of hot pepper flakes for fun!

-cut broccoli stalks from tops, peel fibrous outer layer and chop coarsely.
-Cut off flowers and set aside
-In a pot, combine stalks, garlic, onions and broth.
-bring to a boil over high heat.
-reduce heat and boil gently for 10 mins, covered.
-add flowers, hot pepper flakes and cooked rice and simmer for 5 mins longer
-in a blender, puree a little at a time until smooth (or desired consistency) and return to pot
-stir in lemon juice, S & P (and milk if you like) and let simmer but not boil.
-dish out into bowls and add cubed cheddar just prior to serving

Another great recipe!
I got it from some grocery store handout for quick and easy lunches. 
 Make it while you have broccoli around...then freeze it for long term use. 
It works great for a winter warmer-upper!  Thick and healthy too! 
The heartiness comes from the rice instead of using heavy cream.


Chunky Chicken Vegetable Chowder

4 packets vegetable bouillon
3 cups water
1 cm onion
2 tbsp butter
1 cup each diced potato(stored from garden), carrot(stored from garden), beans (frozen from garden), peas(frozen from garden), cooked chicken cubed
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup frozen corn (cut from cobs in the fall and frozen)
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tsbp corn starch

-dissolve bouillon in water as per directions, set aside.
-in large pot, cook onion in butter until softened.
-add bouillon, vegetables, chicken, and basil, bring mixture to a boil
-cover and simmer on med heat 20 mins or until tender.
-add corn, and simmer 5 mins longer
-in a cup, stir corn starch into milk until smooth
-add to pot stirring slowly, bring pot back up to a boil. 
-boil 1 min to thicken
-add S & P to taste and serve with biscuits or bread

This recipe is great to freeze if you save the milk until you reheat it.
It "sticks to the ribs" as they say.  Great for after a day outside ice fishing or sledding.
I originally got it from a box of Bovril packets but have made it many times with many different veggies.

See below where we served it with fresh homade bread from the bread machine and also our homemade white wine from the concord grapes in our backyard!


A current favorite of mine is venison Guiness stew.
It is very hearty and full of vitamins and a lean source of meat.

Venison Guinness Stew

1 cup of carrots peeled & chopped
1 sm onion chopped
2-3 garlic cloves pressed
1 sm potato chopped & peeled
1 cup beans & peas
4 cups of beef broth
4 cups of water
1 tsp steak spice
1 tsp worchestershire sauce
2 tbsp Guinness beer (or other dark lager)
S & P

-Brown Venison in a pan and set aside, discard juice.
-Fry in oil onions and potatoes in a pot until tender.
-Add carrots to pot and simmer for 5 mins.
-Simmer in beef broth and steak spice.
-Add meat, peas and beans.
-Add worchestershire sauce and beer.
-simmer all ingredients in a pot or slow cooker for 2 hrs.


A new favorite I found this fall is the spicy pumpkin soup!
This one is a variation on traditional soups made with squashes, 
but freezes really well!

Spicy Pumpkin Soup Recipe

4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 teaspoons garlic pressed
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional)
3 (15 oz) cans 100 percent pumpkin or 6 cups of chopped roasted pumpkin
5 cups of chicken broth or veg broth
2 cups of milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

1 Melt butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add spices and stir for a minute more.
2 Add pumpkin and 5 cups of chicken broth; blend well. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
3 Transfer soup, in batches, to a blender or food processor. Cover tightly and blend until smooth. Return soup to saucepan.
4 With the soup on low heat, add brown sugar and mix.
(if you are going to freeze the soup, don't add the milk or heavy cream)
5 Slowly add milk while stirring to incorporate. Add cream. Adjust seasonings to taste. If a little too spicy, add more cream to cool it down. You might want to add a teaspoon of salt.
Serve in individual bowls.
Sprinkle the top of each with toasted pumpkin seeds for a nutty aftertaste.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Top 10 Best Things About Sledding

As a family, we love sledding.
As individuals, I'm not so sure we would ever go out and just sled all by ourselves.
Going outdoors in a Canadian winter definitely is a social thing.

Toboggan party 1872-75

If you are going to brave the outdoors on a cold day, you might as well be with friends.

Some may say, spread the misery....

I say the more the merrier!

Some call it sledding, others the luge.
Some prefer the sledge, some call it tobogganing.
Some have dogs pulling theirs...
In Scandinavia, they call it a pulk.

Wikipedia says:

toboggan is a simple sled which is a traditional form of transport used by the Innu and Cree of northern Canada. In modern times, it is used on snow to carry one or more people (often children) down a hill or other slope for recreation. Designs vary from simple, traditional models to modern engineered composites. A toboggan differs from most sleds or sleighs in that it has no runners or skis (or only low ones) on the underside. The bottom of a toboggan rides directly on the snow

If anyone had any doubts about one of my favorite winter outdoor activities,
I thought I would break it down for the folks who aren't sold:

1.  Uneven ground builds up your ankle strength

2.  the enormous ab workout from laughing about spills

3.  carrying an extra 15 lbs in cold weather apparel just walking around
(think about it:  hat, gloves, long sleeved shirt, extra sweater, thick downy coat, scarf, leggings, long johns, thick socks, heavy water resistant boots, thick pants, extra pair of socks)
like doing cardio with leg weights on!

4.  a big uphill climb is better than any stair master in creation

5.  weight lifting 50 lbs of dead weight kids uphill
aka the "carry-me-carry-me" syndrome,
also a strong indicator of when its time to pack it in

6.  vitamin d from the sun during the winter months, when you may not be getting enough from other sources

7.  the flushed cheeks indicate you are improving your circulatory system

8.  better oxygen intake from the fresh crisp air

9.  the best part is when you outlast your kids on the hill...
better than completing any circuit training EVER!!!

10.  breathtaking views you'd never see sitting on yer couch or in the gym

I make sure to have a selection of hot chocolates and teas for the after party indoors.
We also have a lovely fireplace in our new its even more idyllic.
I serve hot soup or stew and fresh bread or biscuits.

Broccoli, cauliflower and wild & brown rice soup topped with Parmesan 
served with cheddar garlic biscuits...

It reminds me of winter days in my youth, say 7-8 yrs old...the last time I had a fireplace in my home.
Images of drying your mittens in front of the fire.
Smelling the crackling wood.

I also feel like I'm providing a lasting memory for my kids to think of fondly.

Winter is a thing to embrace.  Try to find something positive about your winter experience
and see how your perspective about the Canadian winter change.
(and this is coming from a former winter-hater)

What's your favorite thing to do in winter?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New Years Resolutions with a Twist...

I love New Years...mostly because I now get to put away the Christmas decorations.

I'm not really a scrooge, but I'm one of those people that dread the intense commercialism of the holidays.
I much prefer the company and eating that ensues when people get together.
The memories made while having fun outdoors in the winter wonderland.

It is a time when people take stock in their lives.
(Usually in the form of the "New Years Resolution")

While I applaud the people who intend to better their lives at any time of year,
it seems to be popular to do in on January 1st.

So in keeping with the idea of new beginnings and fresh starts,
here is my list of New Years Resolutions!

1.  Be more mindful when I eat.
(I want to consider everything I'll be putting in my mouth,
like where it came from and what did it take to get to my plate)

2.  Eat the rainbow.
(If not at one meal, than throughout the day)

3.  Take BIG garden risks.
(we have a whole new property experiment with!!!
I see fruit trees and possibly chickens this year)

4.  Invest locally by shopping within my township solely.
(I already shop locally, but I can do more)

5.  Manage to do more volunteer-work and donate more to charities.
(this year I will find the time to expand my goodwill even further) 

6.  Expand our garden by 4 x its former size
Just because we can!!!

7.  Replace more store-bought food with homemade versions.
(I've never made ketchup and would like to try)

That seems like a decent start...there is nothing in the rules that doesn't say you can't add
more as the new year rolls on....

What resolutions have you made for yourself?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Fun with Phyllo!

As always, when I see a good recipe with more than 2 ingredients that can be home-grown...I grab it.
More often than not, it is a pretty healthy meal...but this one piqued my interest.
Not particularily healthy, but definitely tasty and different.

Not to mention we are BIG breakfast-for-dinner people.

I had intended to make a particular recipe but had to substitute an ingredient...the recipe called for puff pastry...but I couldn't find any frozen puff pastry at my local grocery store...

I bought Phyllo sheets instead...and what ensued was an evening of pastry delight!

I'll reprint the original recipe here:
(Found in Chatelaine magazine in a feature about brunch ideas)

Sunny Side up Tart
6 slices maple bacon, chopped (i used regular, not maple)
8 cups of baby spinach (i only had about 3 cups)
1 x 397 g package of puff pastry (i used phyllo)
8 eggs (i used 4)

(Original recipe calls makes 2 dishes in total)

1-position racks in top and bottom 1/3s of the oven.  preheat to 375 degrees. 
2-line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or foil
3-heat a large non stick frying pan over med heat.  add bacon and onion. cook until onion if soft.
4-add spinach, cook until wilted and set aside.
5-roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface into 2 10x10 squares.
6-transfer each square to a baking sheet.
7-divide spinach mixture between 2 sheets and spread evenly, leaving 1 inch border on each sheet.
8-with the back of a spoon or spatula, make 4 shallow wells in the spinach mixture.
9-bake in top and bottom 1/3s of oven, switching sheets every 6 mins through until pastry is lightly golden, approx 12mins.
10-remove from oven and crack eggs into wells.  continue baking until egg whites are set and yolks are still runny, switching sheets halfway through (another 12mins approx)
11-serve immediately & enjoy!

So as I stated before, I only made 1 sheet with 4 eggs and the phyllo pastry.
Due to our relative lack of spinach, I substituted some chopped tomatoes.
I spread out one sheet of phyllo on the parchment papered baking stone.

I melted some marg and brushed it between the phyllo layers...5-6 in all.
I folded down the long and rough edges to form a neat edge.

During the time while I was creating this breakfast husband noticed there were some leftover phyllo sheets.
He swiftly made off with them to another corner of the kitchen.

I was completely unaware of what he was concocting...

The desert he made was utter heaven...
He cored some apples and stuffed the pommes with a mixture of oatmeal, brown sugar, cinnamon.
Then he wrapped the apple with the phyllo and brushed it with melted butter.
The final touch was the sifted icing sugar on top and the rhubarb/raspberry drizzle on the bottom.....sigh....

Here is a shot of the inside of the treat.

What started out as a nice meal turned out to be an evening of phyllo fun.
And to think it was all because I couldn't find frozen puff pastry at my local grocery strore!

I discussed this challenge with my husband (the only actual trained cook in the family)
and he listed reasons why you wouldn't want to commit to making your own puff pastry.
The process is long, intense and did I mention long?
He talked about the folding and folding and folding some more...and I couldn't imagine going through all that trouble for desert or dinner.
I probably would have just served bacon, eggs and a side of spinach and onions.

But thats what cooking and discovering is all about!
Finding and pushing your boundaries.

Tell me...
"Is there anything you wouldn't make and why?"