Tuesday, March 30, 2010

WARNING!!! The Hazards of BBQing Bacon...

Mmmm bbq'd bacon, that extra smoky flavour, perfectly crisp caramelized fat, oh it's a beautiful sight to see, taste and smell...Ok so yes it was delicious and everything, but it can be a bit of a hazard.

I was baking Tin Foil Potatoes & Peppers on the bbq this weekend, days after bbq'ing the bacon, and was in the house preparing more goodies to go on the grill. My daughter pipes up and says "Mommy the bbq's on fire" and I was like "yeah it's fine, I just put the potatoes on, they can't be burning yet"...pffft kids, what do they know about bbqing? So not more than 2 minutes later I go out there and HOLY CRAP THE BBQ'S ON FIRE!!! The needle was buried at 800 degrees, smoke billowing out the sides and back in large black clouds, so of course I whip open the lid, just in time to see my entire bbq in massive flamage.

God dammit!

So like a genius, a very lucky genius, I reach underneath the bbq, turn off the propane, and let the fire burn itself out. Holy Christ on a cracker I have never seen a fire that big. The bbq wasn't exactly clean before I cooked the bacon, so I really should have know better and cleaned it out before doing any other cooking. But for the love of Jebus, what a mess! Needless to say I turned the bbq back on after the flames had gone out and kept a very close eye on it...no I did not clean it at that point, but I think all the fat/grease/rocket fuel had burned off.

Anyways, we're all adults here and we know that bbqing high fat content foods is dangerous, but I just wanted to share my experience because although it is very funny, it could have gone very sideways.

So here is what I was cooking that night when hell showed up on my patio.

Grilled Lemony Chicken Thighs, Tin Foil Roasted Potatoes & Peppers and Tomato Cucumber Salad

Chicken Marinade:

- 2 lemons zested and quartered
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1 small onion quartered
- 2 cloves garlic smashed & rough chopped
- 1 whole dried chili pepper chopped & seeded
- about 3tbs olive oil
- fresh cracked pepper
- kosher salt
- Chicken thighs - boneless, skin on
** If you can't find them de-boned, it's very easy to remove it yourself. Just pull the meat away from the bone till you can get your knife right along side and with small strokes cut meat away, or as I do, just pretty much rip it off with your hands. There's only one straight bone, it's very easy to find and remove. You can use skinless, but I love crispy chicken skin almost as mush as I love bacon so I almost always use skin on. Plus it keeps the meat from drying out when bbqing. Another little nugget o' wisdom, I'm feeling generous today...

Layer a few sheets plastic wrap over your work surface and place the chicken pieces on it, spaced out a bit, top with more plastic wrap and gently pound the meat to even out the thickness...good God Paco, your mind is disgusting...ok fine, gently pound the chicken with a meat mallet to even out the thicknes...is that better?

Throw chicken, rosemary, onion, garlic, chillies and lemon zest into a large ziploc bag. Squeeze in lemons and throw them in too, drizzle olive oil over top and grind in some fresh pepper. Close the bag and mix all together well, squeezing and massaging through the bag...really Paco, what are you, like 12? DO NOT ADD SALT AT THIS POINT. It can make the meat chewy if marinating for a long time. Let sit in fridge for as long as you can, overnight at most.

Remove from fridge and let the chicken come to about room temp before grilling. Remove from bag and salt front and back just before grilling. Since there is skin on you need to watch it carefully, turning often.

Tin Foil Potatoes & Peppers

- 8-10 Red potatoes sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 3 carrots peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- about a dozen pearl onions - peeled but left whole
- 1/2 of each - red, yellow and orange peppers, seeded and sliced
- 5-6 cloves garlic - separated but skins on and left whole
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp butter
- S&P
- cottage cheese
- 2-3 green onions chopped fine
- fresh parsley - chopped
- bacon bits ***WARNING since you are bbqing anyways, why not try bbqing the bacon! But please be very careful and keep your eyes on it at all times.

Lay out your tinfoil in an X shape, overlapping in the middle to make it extra thick. Place potatoes, carrot, peppers, pearl onions, garlic and rosemary in the centre, drizzle olive oil over top and dot with chopped up butter. Add a generous amount of salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Wrap this all up tight, starting with the sides of the bottom piece of the X. Place on top rack if you have one if not over low heat, you can have the empty side of the bbq a bit higher, you want about 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes depending on how large your package is....ummm yeah...shut up Paco!

Serve this with more butter, cottage cheese, fresh chopped parsley and bacon bits on top...why cottage cheese? Well, I was grocery shopping for this dinner and was at the checkout and realized I had forgotten the sour cream so I asked Izbot to go grab me some, describing the look and colours of the container to her. She's a super fast runner so she was back in a flash with my sour cream...what a good kid! So at dinner I go to get the sour cream out of the fridge and...hey this is cottage cheese! Exact same colour and look as the sour cream package, neither of us noticed. So not wanting to hurt the Izbot's feelings I thought "meh, this will work", and you know what, it was delicious! Still got that creamy dairy goodness that you need on bbq'd potatoes, and actually a lot less fat! So from now on we will be using cottage cheese in place of sour cream, try it, it is seriously tasty!

Tomato Cucumber Salad - Izbot's favourite

- 6 Roma tomatoes, chopped and seeded
- 1 long English cucumber, chopped and seeded ...Paco! Stop it....
- 1 small red onion sliced very thin
- pinch of dried oregano
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 handful flat leaf parsley
- S&P
- 1/4 cup Feta cheese crumbled

In a medium bowl combine, tomatoes, cucumber and onion. Add oregano, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, parsley and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Mix well to combine. Top with feta cheese when serving.
**This is a great salad to add to couscous**

Well there you go, another fabulous dinner at my place, well received by the guests and the Izbot. Let me know how it turns out for you, any questions, comments from the peanut gallery...watch it Paco!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Bacon Scarf.

It's ready!!

I had been following The Scarf Shop By Tehlia through my cousin Megan's blog and came across a lovely pink scarf that looked a bit like bacon, all pretty and pink and beautiful.

Along with the lovely scarfs readily available, I read that she also creates custom designs and jumped on the idea right away asking if she could re-create my beloved bacon in scarf form.

Tehlia immediately responded with an array of questions that really helped me get an idea of what I wanted. After exchanging several messages she had a plan and began work on it right away, keeping in touch throughout, showing me the work in progress and commenting on how she was enjoying the project.

It was cool being invloved in the artistict part of the process, I've only ever created with food and I felt like I was getting a small glimpse into the world of working with yarn. I love the idea of wearing an original piece of art that was created especially for me, and can't wait to have it in my hot little hands...Thank you Tehlia!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pork, wrapped in pork, stuffed with pork.

My Dad's nickname is Pork. I'm not shitting you, it really is, and this did not occur to me as odd until quite recently.

A couple of months ago I was out at a My New Enemy show and was being introduced to some guy and he said to me, "Oh yeah, you're the bacon girl!" Yeah, that's me all right big boy....I thought about this later on with a little laugh and a smirk, how funny to be called the bacon girl, maybe I should change my NAME to...HOLD ON A SECOND, MY DAD'S NAME IS PORK! The clouds opened up, the planets aligned and everything suddenly became clear to me - I was destined to become a bacon worshipper with parentage such as this. As strange as it sounds though, having a dad named Pork is not one of those things I ever really questioned. It just seemed like a perfectly normal thing to call someone. Like Uncle Jack, his real name was John; Uncle Bob, more common, was christened Robert; cousin Tinker, well of course his name is actually Donald. So then it just makes sense that Ronald would become Pork...hhhmmm, maybe you have to be from Saskatchewan to understand. Since my Dad is a fan of bacon, and meat in general, I'd like to dedicate this recipe to him, the one and only (as far as I know) man named Pork.

Prosciutto Wrapped Roast Pork Tenderloin with Apple, Sausage & Herb stuffing

1 pork tenderloin
4-5 slices prosciutto


1 Italian pork sausage - you could use ground pork, in fact I have, but then use your judgement on the herbs and salt, you may need to add a bit more
2 tbsp finely chopped onion
1 small clove garlic minced
1 apple peeled, cored and chopped - you could use any kind, I just happen to buy gala
1 slice of bread broken into chunks
1/4 cup chicken broth
Fresh Herbs, sage, thyme, rosemary, and flat leaf parsley, about 1 tsp of each when chopped fine,

Pre-heat oven to 350.

In an oven proof frying pan...

1. If using sausage remove from casing. Over medium heat, cook your pork meat with the onion and garlic, breaking it up into small chunks as you go along. You don't want to brown it. If there is a lot of grease, drain that off.

2. Add the apple and bread, stir together. Cook only for a minute or two so apples soften slightly.

3. Add enough chicken broth to moisten bread but not too much so it turns out all soggy and glue-ey.

4. Add the herbs. Season lightly with S&P. Cook on medium for a minute until all the liquid is absorbed. Set this aside and clean out your open proof pan.

5. Remove silver skin from the tenderloin. With a sharp knife, make a slit down the length of the meat, about 1 inch from the ends and "back". Season the whole tenderloin with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Stuff with prepared stuffing mix. Now this is likely going to be very messy, since a tenderloin is quite narrow. Press all together firmly till the overflowing stuffing keeps its shape and is mostly inside the meat. This is why I chose to use prosciutto instead of bacon. The wide slices are easier to handle and hold the stuffing in better.

6. Lay the slices of prosciutto on your work space, overlapping slightly till they are about the length of your now stuffed roast. Tenderloins always have that skinny narrow end, fold that under so the roast is of an even thickness. Lay the stuffed roast along the edge and roll that baby up nice and tight folding in the edges to keep all the stuffing inside. Lightly season with S&P.

7. In your oven proof pan, heat about 1 tbsp of oil on high ( 7 ) until very hot. Place wrapped roast in hot oil SEAM SIDE DOWN. This will seal the prosciutto and keep everything inside...hopefully. Sear on all sides until nice and brown then pop into the oven.

This should take only 15-20 mins to cook through, depending on how long you seared it for....use that meat thermometre I told you to buy so you know when it's done. Remove from oven and let rest.

I want to mention that I am usually cooking for two. If the recipes seem a bit small, they are. Just go ahead and alter the portions to feed your brood. I used to cook meals like I was feeding an army and realized so much was going to waste that I very purposely have cut back on the grocery shops.

So that's the porky goodness for the day, post your attempts and let me know how they turn out!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

P-P-P-PARDON? Do I stutter? I said Panko Parmesan Poultry and Potato Panckes

There is nothing to eat in this house!!! How many times have you said that when you're thinking about what to make for dinner? You open the fridge, arrgg, some veggies, a tub of sour cream, eggs, bleck...nothing looks appealing. Look in the cupboards...who the hell lives here, Mother frickin' Hubbard? God what am I gonna make? Better decide soon, kids are looking like they're gonna eat ME if I don't get moving...I have this chicken all thawed out but blaaand...hey, Panko bread crumbs, I could make a shake n bake chicken, oh and I have a bit of parmesan in the fridge, OK, that'll work...now the starch...hhmmm...roasted potatoes? Ugh, not again...but potato pancakes, yes, I think I've got a few eggs left, Ok, this could work....

The joys of having a well stocked pantry-not! I buy mostly fresh because I like to grocery shop on the weekends (Ok I do have a hobby!) so I tend to buy what I need for the week. But there are a few key things I always make sure I have, one of them is a block of Parmesan cheese. No I'm not a millionaire, I know the stuff is expensive, but truly, it's worth it. I buy a $15 triangle and it lasts me probably a month or more. I use it for all sorts of things, salads, potatoes, pasta sauce, etc, but with such a strong flavour you only need a little bit. I use one of those micro-plane thingys (Ok there's another hobby, collecting kitchen tools, but that's another blog for another day) so you get a nice fine grating and very little waste. So there's your little nugget of wisdom, now let's get to the recipes.

Panko Parmesan Poultry

3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup regular bread crumbs
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
good pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper
handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped.
2 tbsp of mayo - you could use a beaten egg, but I only had three eggs left and needed them for the next dish. This is a little trick I learned from my Mom so, here I pass along the wisdom, it's makes your chicken nice and juicy.
6-8 chicken thighs/drumsticks, whatever you have.

Heat oven to 350 and grease a baking dish.

1. Mix the dry ingredients in a large ziplock or other bag.

2. Rinse and dry the chicken pieces then brush with mayo. Seriously, you'll know why if you try and skip it - the crumbs won't stick. Once all of your pieces are slathered in the mayo, shake one piece at a time in the bag till coated. I press the crumb mixture on really good so they end up with a nice crust when done.

3. Place in greased baking dish. Bake for about 30- 40 mins. I always use a meat thermometre, if you don't have one get one, it will save you ruining your meat by over cooking. There's another little nugget for you.

While that is in the oven....get out your electric frying pan. If you don't have one, the largest frying pan you have, you might need two if they're average size.

I cant believe I'm doing this so soon, but I feel like I know you already so I'm going to share one of my most prized recipes....my potato pancakes. What's the big deal you may ask, but have you ever had really good potato pancakes (aka Latkes), better yet have you ever tried to make them? HHmm, well, if you have made them then you know what I'm getting at...if you haven't, then...well just read on and you'll see....

Potato Pancakes (Latkes)

3 eggs
2 tbsp four
1 tbsp grated onion- not minced, you must grate it with a cheese grater!
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 small, 3 medium or 2 large potatoes peeled - you need a good 2 cups when grated, once again, use your brain here...

1/4 cup veg oil for frying

2 apples - they can be the ones floating around the bottom of your crisper, you're just making apple sauce with them.

sour cream

cheese cloth or a very clean dish towel

1. Peel, core and chop the apples. Place in a small pot with a bit of water and a small pinch of salt. Bring to a boil then cover and turn down to a simmer on low. Watch that they don't burn dry, add a bit of water if you need to.

2.In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the flour and whisk till the lumps are gone. Add the GRATED onion and salt, whisk all to combine.

3. With a regular old, large hole cheese grater, grate the peeled potatoes as quickly as you can- they oxidize quickly. Like I said, you will need a full 2 cups, I use a Pyrex 2 cup measure almost full to the top then packed down Now this is the most important part.PLACE THE GRATED POTATOES ONTO THE CHEESE CLOTH/DISH TOWEL AND WRING THOSE FUCKERS OUT LIKE YOU WANT THEM DEAD. You want to get as much of the liquid out as possible (This is the one time I could use a man around the house, but that another blog for another day) Please tell me you're doing this over the sink. If you don't squeeze well, they will turn out all soggy and oily and yucky...you have been warned. When you're sure you've got all the water out, dump them in the bowl with the egg mixture and stir it all together well.

3. Heat the oil over medium high, 325 if using an electric pan, and drop 2-3tbsp portions of the potato mixture and flatten a bit with your spoon. You want them to be about 2-3 inches across, and about 1/2 an inch thick. Cook on the first side about 8-10 mins till nice and brown, then turn and do the other side about half that time. If they're really brown in only a few minutes, turn the heat down and chill. You can smell it when they're ready to turn, like a nice hot french fry. They're done when most of the oil has evaporated...that's right, I said evaporated, if I let myself think that all of the oil has soaked up into the pancakes it ruins it for me. Should be nice and brown on both sides.

4.The best part - when ready to serve, top with sour cream and apple sauce. But you MUST do it in order- potato pancake, dollop of sour cream, dollop of apple sauce on top of the sour cream, sprinkle with s&p. Do this and post a comment and tell me what it looks like!!

While these are cooking check the chicken. If it looks dry on top, baste with the juices or sprinkle with a bit of oil. Should be fine though, thanks to that MAYO.

Your apple sauce should be ready by now, please don't tell me you forgot about it!! If there's a lot of water, drain most of it off. Mash with a potato masher or blend with a hand blender. Again, use your...? Good, you're catching on.

By this point the chicken should be about done. Check the temp and let rest.

I served this tonight with a salad. Ok here's one more little nugget of wisdom for you, but this is it for one blog!

THE Salad

lettuce - I always buy a variety so use what you like.
purple cabbage, finely sliced
1/2 carrot grated
1/4 of a cucumber peeled and sliced
1 pear, peeled cored and sliced.
handful of pea sprouts - they seriously taste like peas.
2 tbs of capers, chopped
1/2 lime
1/2 lemon
olive oil
maple syrup
bit o' grated Parmesan

Put all the veg, fruit, capers in a large salad bowl. Squeeze the lemon and lime over top. Drizzle about 1 tbs of maple syrup and and 2 tbs of olive oil over top. Add s&p. Toss very well. Finish on the plate with Parmesan. See, no need for a bottle of salad dressing, no measuring 1 part acid to 3 parts oil and whisking till emulsified just pour on and toss, I promise you will like it. As long as you do it right ;)

So that was dinner when I had nothing to make for dinner. See what I was talking about, taking a pre-packaged product like Shake n' Bake and making it yourself, only waaaayyy better. And the salad dressing, don't even get me started...that's another blog for another day...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Taco Seasoning...throw out that package..eerrrr...I mean recycle it...redneck...

For my first recipe I thought I'd start with something really exciting and new!!!

But I left my notes at work so I will have to just tell you about my home made taco seasoning. Not pure rocket science yes, but it's one of the first packaged seasoning product replacements I made.

We are a big fan of "Mexican" night (sorry Rick Bayless) in this house, usually once a week we have some form or taco, hard or soft, burrito, enchilada, or nachos.

Now this is one of those recipes that I had seen in passing, but never paid much attention to because hey, no-one does it better than Old Elpaso right?

Wrong! Michael Smith, that gentle Food Network giant (seriously the guy's like 6'8" or something) provided me the base and it has evolved from there.

I use this to "Mexicanize" beef, chicken, fish, rice, black beans, and I have been known to sprinkle it on top of a plate of cheese covered nachos...who doesn't need an evening snack of taco chips covered in cheese? Well I do, and I'm lazy at 10:00pm so I sprinkle this stuff over the chips, cheese and onions, pop the plate in the microwave for 2 minutes and BAM! El Nacho Libre...

Taco Seasoning
*All spices are dried & ground unless otherwise noted

2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tbsp cinnamon-yes cinnamon, trust me....
1/2 tbsp paprika
1 tsp kosher salt or a seasoning salt blend-your choice, sometimes I use a seasoning salt just to mix things up
1 tsp dried (not ground) oregano

Mix all the spices together and set aside.

Next you will need

1 small clove garlic minced
2 tbsp onion minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 minced jalapeƱo
1/2- 1 cup of water
1/2 of a lime

1. Grab a pan large enough to cook your required amount of meat. In about 2 tbsp veg oil saute the garlic & onion till soft about 2-3 mins.

2. Add your meat-hamburger, chopped chicken meat, fish, or beans, for you poor deprived vegetarians, and cook till done.

3. Add about HALF the spice mix and stir well to combine. You will need to use your brain here**, add more if you like, a bit more salt if you think it needs it.

**Sidebar - I am assuming if you are reading this you have some sort of idea about how to cook. Always use your personal taste when spicing foods-don't blame me if it's too spicy or not enough or whatever...It's all about personal responsibility people...

4. At this point cook it dry for a few minutes to bring out the flavours, but keep stirring or you'll burn it for Christ's sake.

5. Add the tomato paste, jalapeƱos and water. You want enough water to about half way cover the meat...UNLESS IT'S FISH-SKIP THIS STEP AND THE NEXT IF YOU ARE USING FISH. That would be gross...the fish wouldn't stand up well to simmering. If using beans, mash them up a bit as they cook for a refried kinda look.

6. Simmer on low till the liquid is gone and the meat is all saucy and yummy looking, you can keep going till it's a bit dry if you prefer, drier = a bit less messy.

7. Right before dispensing above meat onto tortilla style of choice, squeeze the lime over the meat and stir. This brightens up the flavour a bit, cuts the heat from the spice, really nice...don't make me say it twice....

Obvious - top with shredded cheese, lettuce, diced tomatoes, avocado, sour cream, salsa, fresh chopped cilantro, and of course more fresh squeezed lime...fo sho it makes your taco taste so good.

This a great recipe to double, triple, quadruple, I make a big batch of the dried spices to have on hand.

A good alternative to ground beef is Chicken and Black Bean together. For some reason it works best in a soft tortilla, all wrapped up like a burrito. I think it's because those black bean can't go all Mexican jumping bean out of the tortilla...did you ever have those as a kid? It was a small plastic container and when you put in near a heat source it would jump all over the place...wonder what the hell those things actually were...anyways....enjoy.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The beginning...

I grew up surrounded by great cooks and food as local as it comes, though of course did not fully appreciate it as a child. I look back now and am thankful for what I learned / experienced...watching Granny cook a huge family dinner like it was nothing, never sitting down until all was done and everyone served...despising weeding the garden- such a hardship! But the joy of sneaking down the row of peas and stealing a few off the vine, sitting in the dry, hot prairie dirt, feeling the sweet pop of a sun-warmed baby pea in my mouth...watching dad fillet the fish that were moments ago flopping around in the kitchen sink (don't even get me started on the skinning that took place in the garage) picking choke cherries along grassy dirt roads to make jelly...such warm, dust filled memories that have shaped my vision of food and where it should come from.

This whole business of "sustainable eating" that people have "discovered" irks me. We've become so far removed from our food sources because of various trends like this that it's ironic to me that people are discovering this "new" way of eating and "finding" new sources of food...it's always been there, they were just too busy trying to one-up each other with the newest craze-"Oh has you tried Sadza? Oh dear you must, it is all the rage..blah blah blah...

When I look at a product I see at it as more of a process: how many steps/processes did it take to get to my plate? If I can't easily imagine how the product got on the shelf, I don't really want to ingest it...Can I easily make this myself with whole foods? Damn straight I can, and do, make it myself...as much as possible. I'm not a purist, I do eat processed foods and will never claim not to...how could anyone give up a beautiful Kitkat, or turn their nose up at a perfectly stacked Whopper with cheese? It's all about balancing out the whole with processed, the good fat with the bad, the daring with the traditional etc etc etc...I feel that food is to be enjoyed, not over analyzed and judged based on current foodie trends.

Well then....for me this blog is about recording my recipes and attempts, sharing ideas with anyone who is interested in just plain old good food...If you are looking for good recipes, unpretentious banter about food and life, some random musical interludes, and a little bit of humour now and then, you've come to the right place...please feel free to comment, I appreciate your feedback...just don't dare call me a "foodie"...