Welcome

Welcome to Heathers Fresh Cooking!

I love food, and you do too, if you are reading this.  I especially love food that is prepared from scratch using fresh ingredients and few processed foods.

My recipes have all been tested in my own kitchen by me.  My “support team” and hardest critic is my husband Kevin.   He is my board to bounce ideas off of, he helps me research recipes, he tests and tastes along the way and encourages me every step of the way.

I hope you enjoy my offerings!

Beverages

Tepache – Fermented Drink

This  drink is made from pineapple rind, and is fermented on your countertop.  It is  commonly made all over Mexico and probably anywhere else pineapple is grown.    Because of the fermentation, you should be  aware, there may be a trace  of alcohol in the drink, but certainly not enough to make you woozy or unable to operate heavy machinery.

I have been making this for several years now, with great success.  I did have 1 bad batch but that was because I used a different type of sugar.  Lesson learned, white sugar, not brown must be used here!!

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Tepache

1 pineapple

3 cups water (more if needed)

1 cup white sugar

Special Equipment

2 quart glass pitcher or jar

Fermentation lock (found in any wine making store.  Optional but handy to have)

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Instructions

Remove leafy top of pineapple and discard.   Cut peel off of pineapple, taking about 1/4 inch of fruit with the peel. Set fruit aside to eat fresh.

Place the peels in a 2 quart glass jar or pitcher, arranging so peel will  stay submerged. ( I put the larger peels on top and jam them in so they cannot get past the neck of the jar.  A small, heavy glass or fermentation weight will also work very well.)

Dissolve the sugar in 2 cups of cool water and pour over peel in jar, adding additional water as needed just to completely cover the peel.

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I use a shot glass to prevent the pineapple rind from floating.

If you are using a pitcher, Cover  loosely with plastic wrap.   If using a fermentation lid, just screw it on to the jar .  Put the jar on a saucer to catch any drips if it happens to overflow while it is fermenting.

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Place in a warm, spot on your kitchen counter, out of direct sunlight. Cover with a kitchen towel if you don’t have a shady spot to put it.

Mixture will become cloudy and start to bubble after 12 – 24 hours, depending on how warm it is in your kitchen.  This is supposed to happen, it tells you that fermentation has begun.  Soon after that, you will notice it is also becoming fizzy, and may overflow from its container.  Dont worry, this is normal, and perfectly ok.

After  2 days of fizzing check  the flavour of your Tepache.  It should taste sweet, and a little tangy.   If you have achieved this goal, strain, pour into an ice filled glass and enjoy.

If , on the other hand, your tepache tastes “off”, has a bad smell or has darkened in colour, throw it all out, sterilize all your equipment and start over with the next pineapple you buy.

The whole process will take from 1 to 5 days, depending on the  temperature of your kitchen.    On a hot summer day, if I start this in the morning, it can reach the fizzy stage within 24 hours!  Keeps, refrigerated 3- 4 days.

 

 

Uncategorized

Cake for Breakfast

Cake for breakfast makes me smile.

Gray Area Strength

barbell

Today, I missed my workout. Now normally I am pretty uncompromising about my workout time – I feel guilty about it on a regular basis but a bigger part of me knows that it is a non-negotiable if I am to remain somewhat sane. I always used to watch those oxygen mask demonstrations on airplanes and think that they had it kinda backwards when they said that if you were travelling with a child or dependant, put your own mask on and then look after your littles. Now I get it, but I learned the hard way that I must look after myself first or I am no good to anyone.

Anyway, my younger kid has been sick for the whole week and unable to go to school. Not catastrophically ill, but just enough that it would be irresponsible of us to send her into an environment with a lot…

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Uncategorized

What Is Your Storm Preparedness Style?

This is a fun read.

Stuff my dog taught me

emerg-essWhen it comes to snow-storm preparation, there are three kinds of people: Survivalists, Comfort-Junkies, and the Wilfully Oblivious.  

Survivalists are easy to spot because their pantries are filled with canned beans.  Survivalists have a weird passion for brown beans in tomato sauce.  They also stockpile granola bars and those little containers of individualized apple sauce that are a staple item in kid’s lunchboxes.

Survivalists have back-up plans for their back-up plans.  There is a case of Aquafina in their hall closet and a bucket of water sitting ready in the bathtub; lighters and waterproof matches in their kitchen junk drawer; and “family packs” of batteries in a plastic container that sits underneath another plastic container filled with candles.  

Survivalists also have multiple styles of flashlight – big square ones, pocket-sized ones, some with bendy cords that wrap around stuff, and at least a couple that attach to your…

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Beef · Uncategorized

Tex-Mex Shepherds Pie

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Tex-Mex Shepherds Pie

Serves 6.

Yup, this is a comfort food.  You’re welcome.

1 kilo (2 1/2 pound) potatoes, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces

2 Tablespoons canola oil

1 large onion, diced

1 poblano chile, diced

2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4″ slices

2 chorizo sausages, cut into quarters then diced

350 grams lean ground beef (a little more than 1/2 lb)

3 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground if available)

14 oz can diced tomatoes

1/2 cup chicken (or turkey) stock

1 cup frozen peas

1/4 cup frozen chopped spinach

1/3 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

3 Tablespoons milk

2 Tablespoons butter

1/1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400F.   Cook potatoes in salted water until tender.

While potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a large pot.

Add onion,  poblano and celery and cook 5 minutes over medium high heat, until vegetables are softened.

Add chorizo and ground beef.  Cook, stirring often until meat is no longer pink.  3 – 5 minutes.

Stir in  garlic, cumin and pepper and cook 1 minute more.

Add tomatoes and chicken stock, increase heat to high, and bring to boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and simmer until liquid is reduced by about half and slightly thickened.  5 – 10 minutes.  Stir in frozen peas and spinach.

Transfer to 9″ x 13″ oven-proof casserole & set aside.

Drain potatoes and let cool slightly.  Add sour cream, milk and butter.  Mash well.  Taste for seasoning, add salt to taste.   Stir in cheese and red pepper flakes and mix well.

Gently dollop potatoes over meat mixture in casserole, smoothing a bit with a spoon so there are no gaps between the dollops.

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Thanks to FoodTV.com for the inspiration for this dish.

Bake 30 – 35 minutes until edges are bubbling and potatoes have started to brown in spots.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with a fresh green salad to ease any guilt you might feel from adding all that cheese to the potatoes.

 

 

 

 

Main Courses · Pork

Cubano / Cubana

 

img_2112One of the hazards of cooking from books is that, sometimes, I have not yet had the opportunity to sample the original version of whatever it is I am trying to cook.   My first attempt at Guacamole, for example, had people asking what it was because, even though I followed the recipe exactly, it bore no resemblance to actual guacamole.  Why?  Having no previous experience with avocados, I had no clue that they should be soft, like a banana, not rock hard, like a carrot.

Such is the case with Cubanos.  Ever since we watched the movie Chef, I have been fascinated with the idea of these sandwiches.  I mean, for an entire movie to be based upon a sandwich, it must be one heck of a taste experience!  Shortly after seeing the film,   Nagi’s Recipe Tin Eats  published the recipe developed by Chef Roy Choi, for the pork  used in the movie sandwich.

Off to the meat market to buy pork to recreate what was quickly reaching mythical status in my imagination.   The result of our efforts was pretty good.  But, perhaps because of the build up I had given it in my mind, it was not the taste experience I had been expecting.

I shelved the idea of recreating this taste sensation for a long time (been there, done that), until I saw Chef Jose Garces Cubano Recipe  and was tempted to try  once again.

We liked the mustard glaze on this a lot.  Better, even, than the marvellous Mojo marinade on the first try, according to my nerdy food notes, and thus declared it to be our new favourite version.   But at the end of the day, I questioned the value  of all the effort put into preparing and cooking the pork and subsequently, making the sandwich.

In all honesty, it still felt like just a fancy name for a grilled sandwich to me and I could not shake the feeling that there must be something “more” to this.    I mean, if it really was just a sandwich, why all the fuss?  Why, when I google Cubano, do I come up with PAGES of hits.  Why does seemingly every chef out there have their own spin on it?   Pinterest actually has a whole board JUST FOR Cuban Sandwiches!

We stopped at a new place for lunch today, and on their menu was Cubana!  Assuming this to be the Mexican version of a Cubano (a google search later did confirm this to be true),  I ordered one to try to discern what I have been missing in trying to make this at home.

My plate hit the table with a ‘thud’.  One look at it, and I realized why it was $90 pesos, and the most expensive thing on the menu!   I have never seen a sandwich so big!  It was worthy of  a spot on  Man vs Food !  What a day to have left my camera at home!  It was so big, I immediately sent half of it back to the kitchen to be wrapped to go.

The half sandwich you see below weighed in at 15.8 oz!  And this is only half of it!! Imagine!

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Upon examining the contents of this behemoth, I realized what I have been missing in all my attempts, and which is pretty much the whole point of the sandwich, I think  . . . abundance with humility.

Stuffed between the layers of bread was the expected layer of pork, this one braised in a light tomato sauce.  Also included was a breaded pork cutlet, a scrambled egg (maybe 2), a slice of deli ham, at least 2 grilled wieners, a slice of American cheese (translate that to kraft cheese slice),  a fairly large slab of panela (fresh local cheese), tomato, onion and lettuce.

This sandwich taught me a lot.  Not just about Cubanos and Cubanas, but also about cooking in general.  The Cubanos I had been making, while technically correct and very nearly picture perfect fell far short of the experience I was hoping for .  This was a good reminder that while everyone can cook from a book, it is getting out there to experience the cultures and flavours we want to bring to our stovetops that make us stronger cooks.

Only now, that I have tasted the “real deal” will I be able to fully “bring it “to my own table.   Admittedly, duplicating this exact sandwich in my own home will most likely never happen, just because of its size.  But I will take what I learned from it to kick my next pork sandwich up a few notches.

Beef · How To... · Main Courses

Our Favourite Way to Grill a Steak

Its Friday, and time to unwind.  For us, that means  grilled meat, usually beef!!

Being Alberta born and bred, we had a tough time adjusting to Mexican beef.  We discovered there is a reason that beef here is normally marinated, stewed or sliced and diced and stuffed into a tortilla.   Pretty much, we stopped buying beef altogether, with the exception of a pre-marinated steak called Aracherra.

Several years ago, however all that changed,  when a Sonora’s Meats store  opened at the Las Juntas crossing.    Presumably,  they serve beef from the state of Sonora, but wherever it came from, it was good meat!!  Much better than anything we had previously found, and the big draw for us was that they would custom cut a steak that finally justified the time a charcoal BBQ takes to be ready.

Our first time ordering  a 2″ cut of sirloin caused enough commotion to attract the manager/owners attention.   He wandered over, thinking we needed a translator to help with our order.   He looked even more surprised than the butcher when we confirmed that yes, we did in fact want a 2″ cut of beef.   It wasn’t until we told him that we are from Alberta that a look of understanding came over his face.  He said something in Spanish to the butcher and we got our 5cm cut of sirlon.  He then asked us “How to you cook this anyway?”    (what he never did learn was that we did not eat this at one sitting.   This was our Friday dinner, our Sunday steak and eggs and lunch for several days the following week.)

Unfortunately, all good things must end.  The meat store eventually closed, and the butcher who would actually cut a 2″ steak for dropped out of sight.  Fortunately, it wasn’t long before Sonora Beef began to become mainstream, and can now be found at our local Mega and Wal-Mart stores.  While it is nearly impossible  to convince any of the employees to give us a 2″ cut,  we are nearly always assured of  finding a  decent 1″ steak, which, in reality works just fine for us.

So, we are happily grilling every Friday again, and always, there is room for anything our guests want to grill as well.    Friday Grill has become a tradition here;  a time for  us to connect with our guests as we gather to share a glass, a good meal and some laughs while the sun sets on another beautiful day here in Nuevo.

Regardless of which type of grill you use;  charcoal, gas or hot coals of a camp fire, one trick we have learned is to season our meat EARLY!!   Like ‘in the morning before we start work’ early!    The flavour early seasoning brings to the steak is incredible!   It also helps to keep the meat moist, and tenderizes it a bit, so if the tenderness of that strip loin you bought is suspect, early seasoning will help it.

Here is our method to a perfectly cooked steak.  If you are not already doing this, give it a try, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

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Step 1  – Season your steak in the morning. You can use simple salt and pepper, or your favourite steak seasoning. We often make our own, but Grill Mates Montreal Steak Spice is our go to .

 

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Step 2 – Set seasoned steak on a couple of bamboo skewers so air can circulate around it, then pop it in the fridge and forget about it for the next 6 – 10 hours.

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Step 3 – Rub about 2 teaspoons of oil on your steak before you put it on the grill. This helps keep the juices in.

 

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Step 4 – Grill over direct heat till its done how you like it. About 4 minutes per side for Medium Rare
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Step 5 – LET IT REST!! Tent with foil and let it rest 10 minutes before you cut into it. This gives the grill master time to re-fill his glass while all those juices are absorbed back into the steak instead of running all over your plate.
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STEP 6 – Enjoy!!

 

Uncategorized

Gochujang Braised Chicken Legs with Seasoned Rice

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My first version used thighs.  Equally good with legs.

This is a nice dish to warm you up on a cold winter night.    We recently made it for friends, who all loved it.  It comes together quickly, and doesn’t require a lot of fussing so you can spend more time enjoying your guests than in the kitchen.    You could even make the chicken and the rice the day before and re-heat the chicken it while you fry the rice.

Yes, you will probably have to hit the oriental market especially to buy the Korean Gochujang paste, but it will be worth it.  The paste keeps a long time in your fridge, but once you have tried it, you will be looking for ways to incorporate it into other things you cook.

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2 examples of packaging for Gochujang sauce.

The dish is a little spicy, but not overpowering.  If you are concerned about the heat factor, maybe start with half the amount of gochujang.  You can always add more spice, but you cant take it out.

The original recipe can be found on Epicurious.   I have made a few changes to suit my cooking style, and the number of people it serves.

1 large onion, finely chopped

8 garlic cloves, finely grated

1 (3-inch) piece ginger, peeled, finely grated

1/4 cup gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon mirin

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more

5 cups cooked rice

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon mustard powder

12 chicken thighs or drumsticks, patted dry (or combination of both)

Kosher salt

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 – 4 cups homemade turkey or chicken stock  or low-sodium chicken broth

1 bunch scallions, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced.

1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Mix onion, garlic, ginger, gochujang, soy sauce, sugar, mirin, sesame oil, and 1 tsp. pepper in a medium bowl to combine; set sauce aside.

Toss cooked rice, cumin, garlic powder, and mustard powder in a medium bowl to combine; spread out on rimmed baking sheet and chill until cold, about 1 hour.

Season chicken with salt. Heat vegetable oil in a large heavy pot  or dutch oven over medium.  Add chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add reserved onion and garlic mixture and bring to a simmer; cook until sauce appears to thin out, about 3 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover pot, and simmer, turning occasionally, until chicken is very tender, 45–55 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium. Working in several batches, fry rice,  until it starts to get crispy on the bottom, about 5 minutes, stir and cook another 5 minutes.  what you are looking for is for some of the grains to be crispy, puffed, and lightly golden. Transfer to serving bowl  or platter and keep warm while you fry the rest of the rice.

To serve,  top fried rice with chicken, garnish with scallions and coconut.   Spoon some sauce over and serve the extra sauce along side.

 

Cooks notes:  the original version of this dish includes using short grain rice and shaping it into patties to fry.