Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Martha Stewart - You Saved My Jam Today - I Heart You

True story:
Mr. Betty Martha and I were at Walmart a few days ago perusing through the newest addition to the store - the grocery section!  As we are walking by a bin of pomegranates he says to me "Babe (I know, cheesy but its a true story) I'm getting a pomegranate, I think I might like them." 
Ok?  Strange for him to come out with that but sure, way to go Mr. BM!
So he buys just one, of course in case he doesn't really like them, gets home, cuts it in half and says
"Now what?"
HA - I dunno....I drink the juice I've never bought one.
I tell him to grab a spoon and dig in, which of course lasts only about a second...then he says "Are you supposed to eat the white part?"
HA - I dunno....I drink the juice I've never eaten one.
This charade lasts literally 45 seconds, a few of the seeds are eaten and then quickly he has left the vicinity - I wonder if he liked it??
We aren't allowed to talk about it anymore.
I went and picked up a few more deciding that I would use them to make jam along with its sidekick, the blueberry.  (Funny, how this fruit has been around forever and yet, all of a sudden its making headlines, its fresh, its cool, its healthy and EVERYBODY should be seen eating it!  Next thing you know the jack fruit will be all over the news!)

My MIL to be says "that's going to take a while, why didn't you just buy the pre-seeded bags?"
I then remembered the nonsense with Mr. BM - how AM I going to get the seeds out easily???

Martha, this is where you come in, saving the day...and my jam sanity!

Martha taught me that you simply take the fruit, cut it in half, turn it over a bowl and whack it with the back of a wooden spoon.  The little pods drop right out!!!

What she DIDN'T tell me is that as you do this you should wear protective gear - or avoid light colours.
But I bet she has something on her website on how to get rid of the stains using some unconventional paste of something mixed with something else....the woman is a genius
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Monday, November 29, 2010

Feelin Hot Hot Hot - Red Pepper Jelly

I've been debating whether or not to tell you up front that I didn't actually cut the peppers, boil the concoction, sterilize jars, pour the jelly into jars - basically, I didn't make the jelly.  I DID however advise, help stir, ensure the pregnant one didn't forget to add the hot peppers (which happened in the first batch) as well as be guinea pig, all of which entitles me to say I helped to create this doesn't it?

I was making bread today and my future SIL wanted to do some canning for Christmas.  I like company, and I like anything to do with creating food so was quite happy to help her out.
While I have made jam before - which I really should post here for you because I have to say my plum vanilla jam is to DIE for, I have never made jelly - let alone red pepper jelly.  The premise is the same, sugar, pectin and acidity boiled, canned, eaten...

If you've never had the opportunity to have this, it is great for dinner parties.  Simply pour the jelly over some cream cheese and serve with crackers/pitas etc.  Some even eat this much like regular jams or jellies, on English muffins or toast!
Here's what you will need for each batch:

6-7 250ml jars with lids - sterilized
a large pot
spoon and knife
canning funnel
patience ;)

3 1/2 cups red peppers - tiny dice is best
1 small can chopped jalapeno peppers
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 c. white vinegar
6 1/2 c. granulated sugar
4 oz. liquid pectin
6 drops red food colouring (if you wish)

Add all peppers, flakes, vinegar and sugar to the pot, stir to combine.  Bring to a rolling boil for 6 minutes stirring constantly.  Please note that with making jams or jellies it is important to time exactly - too much boiling produces a thick substance and not enough, well, the opposite.
Stir in the pectin and continue to boil another 3 minutes still stirring.
Skim off the foam with a spoon and remove from the heat.

See, you need to skim this off, it doesn't look pretty in jars

Pour into jars leaving about 1/2 inch space.  If you have the tools, remove any air bubbles by running a spatula around the jelly and the jar - you don't have to though, its not the end all and be all...

Finally, place the lids on the jars, place in a pot and boil for 5-8 minutes to seal and preserve.
Your jelly can last 6 months to 1 year in your cupboard if you make sure to boil once filled.

Great job Tamara!!

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Souvlaki Skewers

In my house we call this "meat on a stick" because you can make it with chicken, pork, lamb, or beef - we like to generalize. 
Actually its more like:
Little Ugh: "Mom, what's for dinner"
Me: "Meat"
Little Ugh: "Like Chicken?"
Me: "Something like that - meat on a stick"
Little Ugh: "Oh, ok, so chicken?"
UGHHH not everything tastes like chicken - but if that will make him eat it, then, why yes darling...it is chicken.

Actually, this post goes along with the spanakopita post since it is all part and parcel of our impromptu dinner party. 
I happily offered to make the meat portion since it is easier for me to BBQ and serve than someone else bringing their BBQ along with them :)
I find that homemade souvlaki almost always tastes better than any pre packaged job from the local grocery store or restaurant (unless its a traditional Greek place where a 90 year old Ya Ya is slaving away) and it only takes a few moments to get those flavors cookin!

Pork Souvlaki

2 pork tenderloins
2 tbsp. dried oregano
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. low sodium soya sauce (or if you have red wine use that)
4 cloves chopped garlic
1 shallot diced
juice of 2 lemons
12 bamboo skewers soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

I like to use partially frozen tenderloins when I first start.  It is easier to cut into perfect cubes and to take off that silvery membrane.
Take your tenderloin and cut it as if you were butterflying it only follow through so it is in half.  Slice each half lengthwise again.  From there you can make your cubes. 2 inch cubes work best.
Do this with each tenderloin and place into a large Ziploc bag.
In a small bowl whisk together all ingredients and pour into the bag.
I marinade overnight so that the meat has a chance to absorb all of the flavors but if you are pressed for time 1 hour on would work too.
When you are ready to BBQ, heat your grill on high and lightly oil so the meat wont stick. While you are waiting for it to heat up, skewer your meat - approximately 5-6 cubes per kabob.

Turn the BBQ down to medium heat and place your skewers on.  Turn after 5-7 minutes and continue to grill another 5 -7 minutes.
Some like to squeeze some lemon juice over top once complete - your call, in my house it is eaten as fast as it comes off the bbq.

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Spana what?

Spanakopita - Spinach traditionally marrying itself with feta, onions, egg, and dill wrapped in phyllo; this appetizer can also be made larger and fuller to be part of a complete meal.

The gals and I decided that it was time we had a card night as we have all been so busy with our regular lives that we haven't been together in quite some time. This was the perfect opportunity to have some great food and a little fun.  A quaint dinner party ensued. (Although there was enough food to feed the neighbourhood!)

Now pot luck is always the best way to go when you have a small kitchen and to kick things up a bit we opted to theme this dinner - Greek.  I was in charge of the souvlaki first and foremost (which will be posted also) but no Greek dinner party can come without the spinach pie can it?  No sirree it most certainly cannot, not in my house it cant!
Since phyllo is no longer the devil in thin layers I wanted to try my hand at this savory appetizer and it turned out pretty great (tooting my own horn)

The best advice I can give is to make sure you have all of your filling ingredients ready, willing, and able prior to assembly - you don't want your phyllo to dry out.


8-10 sheets phyllo
1 small container baby spinach
1 container feta cheese (crumbled)
2 eggs
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 shallots
bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley chopped (you can use dill)
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. melted butter - for phyllo

Blanch your spinach in boiling salted water.  Drain and let cool while you get the others together.
In a bowl mix feta, shallots, garlic, parsley and eggs.  Remove as much moisture from the spinach as possible. (you don't want soggy pies) Chop and add to the other ingredients.

Take 2 damp tea towels and place the phyllo between them.  Working one at a time, take 1 sheet and brush with melted butter.  Place another piece of phyllo on top of the first and again, brush with butter.  Cut into 4 even strips before you add the filling.

Place 1 heaping tsp onto the end (about 1/2 inch from the end) and fold in a triangle shape, then fold over again and again in the triangular shape until you reach the end.  Continue this for each of the cut pieces.
Repeat these steps until you are out of filling.
Yields approx. 20 small triangles

At this point you have a few options:
A) Brush with butter and bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes and eat them all up
B) Freeze them on a baking sheet until set and put into a Ziploc freezer bag to be used at a later time - really??
C) Place in the refrigerator in an air tight container to be used within 24 hours - then bake and eat them all up
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Easy Peasy Apple Strudel

It is strange for me to tell you a dirty little secret - I have never worked with phyllo until today.  EGADS!  I KNOW, with all the baking I like to do you'd think I would have tried it before now.  Let's analyze for a moment - was I afraid of this ever so patience needing pastry?  Did it just seem to good to be true?  Could I believe that people would think I bought my creations?
2 out of 3 of these are correct.  I had always heard that you had to have patience and be very careful with phyllo or it could rip or dry out and look terrible so I steered clear of it.  I thought it was a pain staking ordeal that I just really didn't need to deal with - we have bakeries, I can just stop in there if I needed something fancy looking.

Oh my friends, it isn't as bad as you'd think!  It does take some time as you are creating layers of puffy goodness but its not like you are building a house of cards and one sneeze could blow your hard work away.
This dessert only took maybe 15 minutes?
Again, I had apples left over so that is what was used but I think pears, peaches, plums all would be a great substitute!

Quick n Dirty Apple Strudel

5 sheets thawed phyllo sheets
2 tbsp. melted butter for brushing + 1 tbsp. melted for bread crumbs
1/4 c. bread crumbs
4 apples sliced thick
1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. white sugar + extra for garnish
1 tbsp. flour

Start with the apples so that you have your full attention left over for the phyllo.
Peel, core and slice apples and place in a bowl, sprinkle the lemon juice over top and mix around (this will stop the apples from turning brown).  Place 1 tbsp. butter in a pan and melt, toss in the bread crumbs and coat.  Cook 2-3 minutes until toasty brown.
In your bowl with the apples, throw in the crumbs, cinnamon, salt, flour and sugar and mix together to ensure the apples are fully covered with the ingredients.  Set aside.

Remove 5 sheets of dough from the package.  Place on a piece of parchment paper and cover with a damp towel as you work.
On another piece of parchment take 1 sheet and brush the entire surface with melted butter.  Sprinkle a little sugar over top and place another sheet over top.  Repeat these steps until the final sheet.
Take your apples and on the long end spread them out at one end. (the one closest to you makes the most sense)  Start rolling to encase your apples in a log.  Place on a baking sheet, brush with the remaining butter and sprinkle with sugar.  Cut slits of about 1-2 cm long every 3-4 inches to allow steam to escape.
Bake in a preheated oven at 425 for approx. 15 minutes or until golden brown.
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St. Pepper's Not Lonely Anymore

HA, a song title cleverly disguised as a food blog title. Beatles 1, me 1.  Aren't I the witty one!

This dinner came out of nowhere tonight, I had taken out chicken yesterday and I was set on that...yesterday.  It's hard pleasing me, I change my mind about what I want to eat more than a pregnant woman and her cravings.  I have always been this way.  My sister in law (who happens to be carrying my newest niece or nephew) and I went out for dinner a few weeks back and we (more so me) must have sat in our booth for over 20 minutes trying to decide WHAT to have!  I think had I been more decisive she would have been ready 5 minutes in.  Our poor waitress must have come back to our table 7 times before we finally order an appetizer just so we could have a few extra minutes.
What can I say?  I love food, I just want to be sure that I am enjoying my meals to the fullest.

So as I am debating what variety of spices are going to lounge out with my chicken today, I spot 6 multi coloured peppers in my in laws fridge.  They are away this week and the peppers were going to go bad if I didn't use them, I was sure of it! YOINK

Now as I have mentioned before, I have strange eating habits. 
Exhibit A - Fruit on the bottom yogurt: I slightly stir the top non flavoured part and eat that until there is less than a millimetre of it left and THEN I stir that with the fruit. YUM!
Exhibit B - I like to eat my Coffee Crisps: in layers. (I am not sure why this is relevant)
Exhibit C - I don`t like tomatoes, but I will eat ketchup, I will eat them in chili, pasta sauce and sometimes even bruchetta.  They will never and I mean NEVER touch a sandwich and if for some reason one gets put on it, I have to scrape all the juices and seeds off before eating it.  Who am I kidding, I usually send it back.
I can go on and on, but really I am trying to paint a picture here - I prefer my veggies raw, in a salad, or with dip, so when I decided to make dinner tonight I was going against everything I believe in. 
Stuffed peppers!
I was also trying to disguise rice - Mr. Betty Martha doesn`t like to eat it.  When I make it as a side dish he gets 1 maybe 2 tablespoons and that`s it.  It`s like telling your child who doesn't like brussel sprouts that he only has to eat 2 to get dessert!  So this dinner was as much about my dislikes as his.  What a compromise!
I would like to tell you now that all 3 of us decided that this too can be set in rotation.  Non of us gagged, complained and even cleaned our plates :)

Rice and Pork Stuffed Peppers

5 medium sized peppers - I prefer a variety of colors but you can use what you have
1 lb ground pork
1 small onion chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 1/2 c minute rice - prepared as directed
2 celery stalks
1 can tomato sauce (or homemade if you prefer)
shredded cheese for garnish

Cook rice according to directions and set aside.  Brown the meat and add the garlic, onions and celery to pan to absorb flavors and soften (approx. 5-8 minutes).  While this is happening, cut the tops off your washed peppers, and remove the seeds as well as the membrane inside using a spoon or a knife.  You will want your peps to stand up straight so if necessary cut the bottoms.
Combine rice with meat mixture and stir in the tomato sauce (with a little bit of water - I usually put some into the can to swish around the remaining sauce)
In a shallow baking dish place your peppers cut side up.  Pack in the rice mixture until it reaches the top (if its overflowing a bit its ok, no one is going to judge you)
Place a sheet of aluminum foil over and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.  Remove the foil, add some shredded cheese and bake another 10-15 minutes so the cheese has had time to melt.

This is a full meal in itself but you could pair this with a starter salad or soup to get the ball rolling.
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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Where's the Eggs? Quiche Recipe Included

I just thought of something...the title of my blog refers to deviled eggs yet I don't have a multitude of variations for that or ANY egg dish.  I guess when I was coming up with the name for the blog I was more in a musical frame of mind than a food haze that day.  I also guess that I could have been more inventive with the titles of my posts by incorporating some sort of lyric or song theme into them too but really, do you care?  I didn't think so.

But in all seriousness eggs are so versatile.  You cook with them, you bake with them, they can be for breakfast, lunch or dinner, for making appetizers, and of course you can decorate them which takes it to a whole new "play with your food" level.
Scrambled, poached, fried, sun side up, soft boiled, hard boiled, omelets, with sauce, no sauce, with ketchup - flashback, Bubba Gump shrimp scene from Tom Hanks' Forrest Gump.
Last nights dinner was none of those, it was better...the QUICHE.

Did you know that the quiche actually originated in Germany?  Bet you didn't - most people think it came from France.  The word quiche is from the German Kuchen, meaning cake.  I don't recall eating quiche as a kid and my family immigrated from Germany in the 1950's - maybe its because Julia Child put it in her "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" cookbook in the 60's.  They didn't have the internet to prove her wrong so they never thought to make it.  I missed out.

A quiche can easily be described as a pastry shell with an egg/milk/cream mixture to which a variety of things can be added to personalize the tart.  Last night we had a ricotta and spinach quiche.  Ricotta is a light tasting cheese which goes nicely with the mellow egg.  You don;t even need to make your own pastry, store bought pie crusts work so well!!

Spinach and Ricotta Quiche

1 9" pie crust (not blind baking this one)
4 eggs
2 c. wilted spinach chopped (I like fresh products over frozen)
1/4 c. half and half cream
1 c. light ricotta
1/4 c. fresh Parmesan cheese (thinly grated)
1/8 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
generous dashes of salt and cracked pepper

Super easy folks, whisk the eggs until pale yellow.  Add in the cream, ricotta and parm.  Blend to incorporate but don't over mix.  Stir in the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
In the pie shell place 1/2 of the previously wilted and chopped spinach all over, pour the egg mixture over top and finish the top with the rest of the spinach.
Bake in a pre heated oven at 350 for about 40 minutes.
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