Beef · Main Courses · Pasta · Pork

Bolognese Sauce

BologneseA family favourite in our house, and so easy to put together.  It does take time, so its a good ‘Sunday afternoon when there is nothing much to do’ project.  The good news is that the flavours are even better the next day, so make on Sunday to enjoy later in the week.  After a long day at the office, dinner will be a snap!  Just boil your favourite pasta and you have a quick and easy mid-week dinner.  This serves 8 generously, and freezes very well.

 

Bolognese Sauce

 

3 Tablespoons oil

2 yellow onions, diced

5 celery ribs, diced

3 medium carrots, shredded

6 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 lb bacon finely chopped

1 lb lean ground beef

1 lb lean ground pork

1 can tomato paste (6 oz)

14 oz can tomato puree

1 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup water

1 cup milk (whole milk is best, but skim will work too, if that’s what you have)

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Get your big pot out… not that one, the bigger one – 6 – 8 quarts.   There is lots of stirring and simmering involved here and you will want the extra room a larger pot gives you.

Heat oil in pot over medium heat.   Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until onion is translucent and vegetables are slightly soft.  Do not let them brown.  About 15 minutes.

Increase heat to medium- high, add bacon, beef and pork and cook, stirring to break up  any chunks until meat is no longer pink.  About 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and stir in tomato paste  until well combined with meat and vegetables.  About 2 minutes.

Stir in tomato puree, wine, water, milk, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered until liquids reduce and sauce is thickened.  About 2 hours.  Remember to stir occasionally while sauce simmers.

Spoon over cooked pasta and serve immediately or cool sauce uncovered, at room temperature.  Once sauce has cooled, cover and refrigerate.  Will keep  3 days in the fridge or frozen up to 3 months.

 

 

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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

Aged Eggnog

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When I was a child, my Mom would make eggnog for us when ever she had an excess of eggs.  Living on a farm did have its culinary advantages, tho’ I was far too young to realize just how fortunate we were!

In later years, we lived ‘in town’, and there was no need to make your own, because it had become a grocery store staple at this time of year.  While it doesn’t hold a candle to Moms’ home made version, one really can’t argue with the convenience of it.

My husband, Kevin,  who loves the stuff, would buy 2 litres as soon as it hit the shelves.   He would pour himself a huge glass, drink it down and declare the beginning of the Christmas season.  It is a very rich drink, and after the first glass , it would be several days before the second, and often we threw out more eggnog than we drank.

I was never a huge fan of the store bought version, but its arrival in stores, (and our refrigerator) was a sure sign of Christmas in Canada, and I missed  it  when we moved here.    Of course, I could have made my own, but the trouble with that was that it never seemed convenient to make it when the craving hit.  Too tired, too late, too many dishes… there was always a good reason NOT to make eggnog.

Which is why I was happy to find this recipe for Aged Eggnog.   I love this version for 2 reasons;

1. It ties in with my obsession for all things fermented, and

2.  It IMPROVES with age!   It is happy to wait in the fridge until one of us actually has a craving for it without going bad, making this the perfect addition to our holiday pantry.   They say an unopened bottle will age nicely in the fridge for up to a year.

We wont be aging ours for THAT long, as a matter of fact, you could actually drink this the same day you make it, but the alcohol will not have mellowed.  In that case, just add extra milk and enjoy!!   Next year, I intend to start this much earlier.

Here then, is my version of Alton Browns’ Aged Eggnog.

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Aged Eggnog

6 eggs

1/2 lb sugar

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 1/2  cups heavy cream

1/2 cup amber rum

1/2 cup brandy

1/2 cup bourbon

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/8 tsp kosher or non-iodized sea salt

Separate eggs, freeze the whites for another purpose (merengue anyone?)

Beat the yolks, sugar and nutmeg in large mixing bowl until the mixture light in colour and the mixture falls from the beater in a solid ribbon.

Combine milk, cream and alcohol in a pitcher and slowly beat into egg mixture.

Transfer to glass jar and age in fridge for minimum of 2 weeks.  Alton Brown says a month or even 2 is better, and you can age this for up to a year.

To serve, pour into a glass, sprinkle a little nutmeg or cinnamon over top and enjoy.

Happy Holidays!!

 

Beef · Main Courses

!Chimichangas!

You may have noticed that I haven’t published many Mexican recipes.  The simple truth is why cook it when I can get authentic Mexican any night of the week within a 10 minute drive from my doorstep?

One thing I have not seen here though, is a Chimichanga.  Maybe it isn’t really Mexican?    I don’t really care.   It is fun to make and even more fun to eat.   The photo shows  just one chimichanga on our plates, along with a lot of shredded lettuce and tomatoes.  The truth is, we both went back for seconds so this recipe will serve 2.  You will have ground beef and beans left over, so you could have a couple of friends over or you can make a extra to re-heat later or use the leftovers in tacos or quesadillas the next day.

Don’t be discouraged by the amount of instruction.   Basically, you are putting cooked meat on a tortilla rolling it up and frying it.    Just be careful with the frying part, that oil is HOT.  And of course, never leave heating oil unattended on your stove.

Special Equipment required:  A deep fryer or large deep sided frying pan and a deep fry thermometer

 

CHIMICHANGAS with AVOCADO SAUCE

Avocado Sauce

1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped

1 bunch cilantro, leaves & tender stems, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup sour cream, well stirred

1/4 cup milk  (maybe more depending on thickness of sauce)

2 Tablespoons lime juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

Put all ingredients in  blender and blend until smooth.  You may need to add more milk, depending on the size of your avocado and how thick your sour cream is.  Just keep blending until you have a spoonable, but not runny, sauce.   Set aside.  (you can make this several hours ahead, just be sure to cover and refrigerate).

The Filling

2 Tablespoons canola oil

1 onion, diced

1 clove garlic

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)

1 lb ground beef

pinch of  ground thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in frying pan,  over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until onion is translucent and beginning to soften.  Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes and cook another minute.  Add ground beef, thyme, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper and cook until meat is cooked through.  Stir often to breaking up those bits of beef as it browns.   This should take about 7 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and remove from heat.  Let cool a few minutes.

Chimichangas 

4   8″ flour tortillas

1   15 oz can refried beans

diced tomatoes

2 cups Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded (or any mild flavoured cheese will work just fine)

2 – 3 cups vegetable oil for frying

Heat refried beans gently in saucepan.  This makes it easier to spread them on the tortillas.  Warm the tortillas on low heat in the microwave a few seconds to soften.  This will avoid tearing during assembly.  Wrap in a clean towel to keep warm.

Putting it All Together

The general idea here is to use the middle portion of the tortilla for the fillings.   You want a rough rectangle more or less in the centre of the tortilla, with at least a 1″ border on both sides.

Lay 1 warmed tortilla on the counter in front of you.  With the back of a spoon, spread 1/8 of the beans across the centre, leaving a 1″ border on both sides.   Place 1/8 of the beef on top of the beans, staying, more or less,  within the rectangle you created with the beans.  Top ground beef with a small amount of grated cheese and a sprinkle of diced tomatoes.

Fold sides towards the centre, and over the mound you have created.  Hold sides gently in place with your fingers, then using your thumbs, flip the bottom up and over the filling.  Gently press everything into place so that it is all firmly packed, and roll the burrito away from you, stopping with the seam side down!  Set aside, seam side down and proceed with the next one until all burritos are filled.   If you find you are having difficulty rolling the burritos, use less filling.   Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Once all your burritos are stuffed,  Preheat oven to 150F and place a cookie sheet with a rack inside of it in the oven.  Heat 1″ of oil in a large deep sided (at least 4″) frying pan to 350F.  Using a spatula, carefully lower burrito, SEAM SIDE DOWN into the hot oil.  You can fry 2 at a time.

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Cook until bottoms are golden (2 – 3 minutes) then use tongs or spatula to gently roll them to cook the other side -about 1 minute longer.    Carefully remove from oil and place on prepared cookie sheet to keep warm while you repeat the process with the remaining burritos.

Serve with Avocado Salsa, shredded lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, more diced tomatoes, rice or even more refried beans.

Accompaniments

shredded iceberg lettuce

sliced radishes

sliced cucumbers

pickled hot peppers

 

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Uncategorized

Vacation is over

I am back from an 18 day whirlwind tour of my home town, Wetaskiwin, Alberta,  and parts of Saskatchewan.  Did you know that Watrous, Saskatchewan boasts a salt water lake?  My sister did and it was she who planned our quick trip to Watrous and ultimately, Moose Jaw.  She even did most of the driving which made it a very relaxed trip for the rest of our little group as we watched the prairie landscape roll by us.

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Just like the Great Salt Lake to the south of us, Little Manitou Lake in Watrous is, apparently,  impossible to sink in it.  For a non-swimmer like me, this is very good news!   The water is rich in naturally occurring mineral salts and legend has it that they are also curative.

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Being September, it was too late in the season for me to be taking a dip in the actual lake, but water from the lake has been diverted into a heated indoor pool so the benefits can be enjoyed by everyone all year round.

Watrous 2017

So what does this have to do with a food blog?   Quite a bit, really.  Not only are vacations a time for recharging and discovering, they also seem (for me anyway)  to be a time of constant eating!  Whether dining out,  eating at someones home, or grabbing a quick bite on the road, there are always fresh ideas on the plate, along with old standbys which make our trips home that much more memorable.

Watrous trip 2017

Speaking of road food, those who know me may be shocked to learn that I  discovered a new junk food that now competes with Hawkins Cheezies for space in my suitcase home!  Its true, Snyders Sweet and Salty Caramel-Flavoured Pretzel snacks are dangerously addictive.  I highly encourage anyone looking for a new snack food to give these a try.  ( I won’t include a link to this wonder food because the only one I found takes you directly to a link to purchase and that is not what this is about. )

In the coming weeks, I will be working to recreate and publish some of the old favourites I was lucky enough to eat with friends and family back home.  Meanwhile, I notice this weeks menu has quite a Mexican spin …  it is good to be able to call 2 countries home.

 

Uncategorized

Farmer’s Market Shopping List: Apples, Eggs, and Self-Importance

I love going to the markets when back in Alberta. This trip, a new one for me – the Thursday market near 124 st. This authors take on her last visit to her local Market made me smile.

Stuff my dog taught me

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I love the local Farmer’s Market.  I go almost every Saturday morning.  That said, I am a middle-aged white woman.  I also enjoy restaurants that specialize in brunch, home décor shops that also sell scarves, and places where you paint your own coffee mugs.

My routine at the market is repetitive.  I buy an over-priced coffee on my way in and dedicate the next 30-45 minutes to stuffing food in my face.  I convince myself that locally-produced bacon, organic eggs, and bread baked by a Mennonite woman are “health foods”.  I sample enough cheese to keep me constipated for the rest of the weekend and I eat ALL the cinnamon buns I intended to take home to the family.  Then I fill my re-usable grocery bag with vegetables, pay twice what I would pay at the grocery store for them, and go home.

I don’t over-think the experience.  It is…

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How To... · Pasta

Pizza Dough

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Making pizza on an evening when you are not in a rush is good for the soul.   For us, it is a team activity which means time well spent together.  I prep the dough, we both do the toppings and Kevin cooks it on the grill which avoids heating up the house.

By using instant yeast, rising time is cut in half so we can start the dough around 4 and be eating by 6:30.

So, this Saturday night, when dinner can get to the table ‘eventually’, mix your dough, then maybe mix a cocktail to unwind…  kick back and listen to some great music with your significant other and wait for the dough to rise.

While you are waiting, chop up some fresh herbs and stir them into to can of tomato sauce for a fresher tasting pizza sauce.

And, remember to have fun with your toppings.   What about that leftover brisket, souvlaki or  bbq chicken already in your fridge?  Maybe charred veggies?  Or stick with traditional pepperoni.  Whatever makes you happy.

Cooking time will depend on where you are cooking it – our charcoal grill cooks it in about 6 minutes, but it takes nearly 15 in our oven.  So you will have some experimenting to do, but don’t stress over it, its all part of the fun.

The one piece of specialty equipment you will need for this is a pizza screen or use an upside down pizza pan or cookie sheet.  Using one of these takes all the stress of getting that dressed pizza off of the peel and onto the grill.  Just be sure that if you are grilling this, the pan you choose fits your bbq.

 

Pizza Dough

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon instant yeast

2 1/2 cups flour

6 – 8 oz water

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a bit more for brushing the bowl

In bowl of stand mixer, whisk sugar, salt, yeast and flour together.  Add the olive oil and 6 oz of water.  Using the dough hook, on low speed, mix until dough comes together and forms a rough dough.  If dough looks dry or is not coming together, add more water by teaspoons until it looks right.  Knead with mixer until smooth.  About 5 minutes.  (this can be done by hand if you prefer).

Turn dough onto floured board and knead 3 – 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, place in warm, draft free area and let rise until doubled in size- 30 – 40 minutes.

Punch dough down and place on lightly floured board.  Divide in half for 2 large pizzas or into 3 for 3 medium ones.  Form pieces into balls, place on cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and put back in warm place to rise for another 30 minutes. ( here is where we take that 3rd ball of pizza and toss it into the freezer for later use.  Also, if you are making the dough ahead, you can pop it into the fridge now for up to 2 days. Of course, you will thaw and or let dough warm up and rise before proceeding)

Preheat your oven or grill to 500F.

Working with one ball at a time, roll or press out dough on a lightly floured surface to a roughly circular shape, about 10″ across for a mediium pizza.  Place on your pizza screen or upside down pan.  Add sauce and toppings as desired.  Pop the pan into your oven or the grill and bake 8 – 14 minutes, until cheese has melted and crust is golden.

Pour yourself another glass of wine and enjoy.

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How To...

Tzatziki Sauce

Now that you know how easy it is to make this, you will be putting it on everything – fresh tomatoes, your next BLT, salads, dip for that leftover pita bread…

Tzatziki Sauce

1   6″ cucumber, peeled, seeds removed

1 cup greek yogurt (whole milk)

1 clove garlic, grated

1 teaspoon fresh mint, finely chopped

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together, let stand 15 minutes for flavours to blend and serve with anything greek.

Pork

Pork Souvlaki with Tzatziki

Meat on a stick.  What’s not to like?  Bonus points for you all if you make your own pita bread to go with this.

Serves 4

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Pork Souvlaki

2 lbs pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 red peppers, each cut into 1′ slices

2 Tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped (or 1 TBS dried)

2 Tablespoons fresh oregano, finely chopped (or 1 TBS dried)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lemon, zest and juice

1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients,  EXCEPT for pork and red pepper, in small bowl, mix well to combine.  Place cubed pork in ziplock bag and pour contents of bowl over pork in bag.  Massage bag to work marinade through the meat, squeeze out as much air as possible, seal the bag and refrigerate overnight.  (don’t forget to put the bag in a bowl incase it springs a leak)

Assembly:  Toss red pepper with 1 teaspoon olive oil.  Thread pork and red pepper cubes onto skewers.  Cook in a grill pan or bbq about 10 minutes, until cooked thru.  Cooking time will vary, depending on how hot your pan/bbq is.

Serve with Pita Bread and Tzatziki Sauce (recipe below)

Tzatziki Sauce

1   6″ cucumber, peeled, seeds removed

1 cup greek yogurt (whole milk)

1 clove garlic, grated

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Grate cucumber and place in strainer.  Toss with a pinch of salt and let sit for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients in small bowl.  Squeeze out as much water as possible from cucumbers and add them to the yogurt mixture.  Mix well and serve.

 

COOKS NOTES:

  1.  If using wooden skewers, soak 30 minutes before using.
  2. The first time I made this, I cut the pepper in half and grilled them separately.  Putting them on the skewers makes more sense.
  3. Tzatziki Sauce can be made 1 day ahead.