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.

 

 

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!

Chicken · Main Courses

Conquering Dinner for 1

 

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Piri Piri Chicken Thighs with Peanut Satay and Fried Plantain

Kevin has been away these past few days, and his absence has reminded that  while I love to cook, I don’t so much like cooking for 1.    Mostly, because it seems like a whole lot of effort for just me.   A psychologist may want to delve deeper into this thought; perhaps I feel I am unworthy of a healthy home cooked meal, but the reality is that I  enjoy the temporary freedom from meal planning and the need to have something more substantial than a sandwich or bowl of noodles on the table every night.

Which is why, in the past 2 weeks I have eaten Ramen Noodles for dinner at least 3 times!  Yikes, I do love ramen,  but I reluctantly had to admit last night that I had eaten too much of it for my own good.

So, I took a break from sloth and convenience, and actually cooked dinner for one.    It is obvious that my plating needs work, but aside from its lonely appearance on the plate, my one-pan dinner was extremely satisfying.

Peri Peri Chicken Thighs with Peanut-Lime Sauce and Fried Plantain

1 Tablespoon cooking oil, plus more for frying the plantains

4 chicken thighs

1 teaspoon Peri Peri spice blend (or more to taste, see cooks notes)

2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice ( from about 1 large or 3 Mexican limes)

2 Tablespoons water

1 green plantain, cut into 1″ slices

Sour cream to top the fried plantains

sliced radishes

Heat 1 Tablespoon of oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat.  Rinse and pat chicken dry with paper towel.  Sprinkle with Peri Peri spice on both sides and put in pan, skin side down.  Cook 15 minutes, then turn chicken over.   Reduce heat to low and cook about 20 minutes more until thermometer inserted into centre of thigh reads 175.  Cooking time will vary, depending on size of the thighs.  Remove from pan to plate and tent with foil.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix peanut butter, lime juice and water together.  Mixture will seize at first, keep stirring until it becomes liquid and creamy again.  Add more water  by teaspoons if mixture it too thick.  It should be runny, but not soupy.  Set aside.

Put a paper towel on a clean plate and set aside.  Add more oil to pan to depth of 1/2 inch and heat over medium heat until shiny, but not smoking.   Using tongs, carefully place plantain slices flat in the oil.  Fry about 2 minutes and carefully turn over and cook 2 minutes more to brown the other side.   Remove from oil to paper towel lined plate.

Reduce heat under oil to low while you do this next step, and   work quickly.   Place the fried plantain pieces between 2 sheets of waxed paper and using a meat mallet or the flat bottom of a glass press gently to flatten each piece to a thickness of about  1/3 inch.  (Be gentle, you want to just squish them, so they will still be soft and chewy in the inside, not flatten them beyond recognition. )

Increase heat under oil, until it shimmers again, and with the tongs, gently place each flattened plantain in the oil and re-fry for about 3 minutes, until they are golden.   Remove from oil, back onto paper towel lined plate.

Put a smear of peanut butter sauce on the place, add chicken and plantains, some radishes or other fresh veggie on the side, a little sour cream for the plantains and you have a dinner for 1 ready in under an hour.

Bonus:  for me, the leftover chicken thighs are going into a chicken salad for tomorrow nights dinner.

COOKS NOTES  – depending on the brand of Peri Peri you have, and your personal taste, the amount you use will vary.  I used 1 teaspoon of Silk Road Inferno Peri Peri blend, for all 4 thighs and found it very tame so I sprinkled more onto the chicken after it was cooked.  Remember, you can always add spice, but you cant always take it out.

 

 

 

 

 

Beverages

Watermelon Margarita

No surer sign of summer than watermelon, but sometimes it is difficult to eat the entire thing before the inevitable happens and half of it ends up in the trash.

Happily, I have a solution for that.  Simply remove the rind, cube the watermelon, pop into freezer bags and freeze.   Watermelon is juicy, so don’t over fill the bags and the flatter you can store them, the easier the frozen fruit will be to work with when you want to use it.   (This works best with seedless watermelon, but you can try it with a seeded one as well.)

So, now that you have all that frozen watermelon…

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Watermelon Margaritas

  • Serves 2

4 cups frozen seedless watermelon cubes

1 cup of water (plus more if needed to blend)

2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 3 small or 1 large lime)

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons sugar, more or less,  to taste

3 oz silver tequila

1 1/2 oz cointreau

lime slices or quarters for garnish

Tajin seasoning or kosher salt (see cooks note)

2 large margarita glasses

Put frozen watermelon in blender and let sit 10 minutes so it thaws a bit.  This helps with the blending.

While watermelon is thawing, put a couple of tablespoons of Tajin on a flat plate.  Run a lime quarter around the rim of 2 glasses and then dip the rims in the Tajin and set aside.

Add water, lime juice, salt, sugar, tequila and cointreau to watermelon and blend on medium speed until no lumps remain.   If mixture is too thick to properly blend, add a bit more water to loosen the mixture.

Pour into prepared glasses and serve.

COOKS NOTES – Tajin is a brand name for a spice mix of salt and chile powder.   Found everywhere here in PV, it is sprinkled on fresh fruits and veggies alike for a flavour boost.  If you can’t find it in the Mexican section of your local grocery, substitute kosher salt or even sugar.

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Chicken

Za’atar Chicken Breasts

Stupidly simple.  Za’atar is a middle eastern spice blend, made up mostly of thyme, oregano, marjoram and sesame seeds with a bit of citrus tossed in.  If you have trouble finding it,  just sub in poultry seasoning or thyme and toasted sesame seeds.  Not entirely the same, but who knows, you might come up with an even better blend.   The point here, is to try something just a tiny bit different on those predictable ‘same old’ chicken breasts.

Za’atar Chicken Breasts

Serves 2

2 boneless, skin on, chicken breasts

salt and pepper

1 Tablespoon canola oil

1 1/2 Tablespoons Za’atar

Heat oil in heavy frying pan over medium heat.  Pat chicken breasts dry and season both sides with salt and pepper.   Add to frying pan , skin side down and cook until , 6 – 10 minutes (depending on thickness of breasts), until sides of chicken start to turn white and become opaque.  Turn breasts over, lower heat, partially cover pan and continue cooking another 6 – 10 minutes.

Sprinkle Za’atar seasoning over both sides of  breasts and cook another minute.  (a meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast should read 170F).  Remove from pan, set on plate and tent with foil.  Let rest for at least 5 minutes.  This finishes the cook on the meat and prevents all the juice  from running right out the second you cut into it.  Failing to rest any meat will result in  a flavourless, rubbery mass, so have patience and let it rest.  Mix yourself a dinner cocktail , set the table, toss the salad or  pay a bill on line, while you wait.  Just be sure to wait!!

Salada

!Smashing Cucumbers!

Yes, it is a thing, or was, as recently as March of this year.  Honestly, it is difficult to keep up with all the  food trends recently.  Just yesterday, I read that mould was the new “BIG THING”.  Not like Cheese Mould or something that we normally do our best to avoid, but a Japanese strain that chefs are apparently clamouring for.

Not sure the mould thing will catch on in my world, but the smashing cucumber thing really caught my attention.  Seriously, is there a  better way  to release the days frustrations than by beating up an innocent vegetable?

The theory is that  a smashed cucumber  will have many more nooks and crannies for dressing to hide in and adhere to than boring old slices.   This in turn will give your salad  a much better flavour because that awesome dressing you just spent 10 minutes making actually has something to stick to.

The theory is correct.  Move over clean lines and smooth sides of sliced veggies, hello ragged edges of the smashed!

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Yes, that is a baked potato smothered in sour cream beside the salad. It was delish and I dont apologize for eating the whole thing!!

Yes, I can hear your arguments now… “professional chefs have staff to clean up after them while I do not”.  No worries.   You can still have fun smashing veggies provided you remember to place said veggies in a plastic bag and hold the end closed while you hammer away.

Perhaps hammer is too strong a term.  Really, you just want to GENTLY knock the veg  with a meat mallet , or the back of your biggest knife or even the bottom of a heavy frying pan,  until it starts to break apart.  Then, remove from the plastic bag and break it apart with your fingers into unequal jagged chunks.

The original recipe for this was published in Bon Appetit March 2017.    I haven’t changed much, except to add some lemon zest and I made the quantities simpler to follow.

Smashed  Salad

1 clove garlic, minced

Juice of half a lemon

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 cup greek-style yogurt

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Tiny pinch of sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

4 small  cucumbers, peeled

10 medium radishes, cleaned and trimmed

In small bowl, mix garlic and lemon zest and lemon juice and set aside.

In large bowl, whisk yogurt, oil and sugar, season with salt & pepper.   Whisk in lemon juice mixture.

Working in batches, place cucumbers and radishes inside of a plastic bag.  Holding the bag securely closed, gently pound veggies with a meat mallet or bottom of heavy pan until broken but not smashed beyond recognition.  Tear into smaller pieces with your hands and add to yogurt-lemon mixture.  Stir well, season with salt and pepper.

The instructions on Epicurious say to let stand 2 hours, but I got a late start on making dinner so it sat about 15 minutes, while I finished cooking the Za’atar Chicken Breasts.  Maybe next time, I will have the luxury of a 2 hour rest for this salad, but honestly, it was pretty good without the wait.  Whether it sits or not, I will be making this one again.   Not only for the flavour, but also because it is tons of fun to smash a cucumber!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken

Oriental Chicken Sandwich

It seems very strange to be posting a recipe for a sandwich, but hey, people are actually publishing whole cook books based on the subject so I guess it isn’t that far out of the park.    And, besides, summer is here which means most of us will be looking to spend less time in front of the stove and more time enjoying the great outdoors!

But, as much as we want cool  and convenient, we still want flavour.  This sandwich will give you both.

 

Serves 2

Banh mi sandwich topping

Oriental Chicken Sandwich

3 Tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

1 Tablespoon canola oil

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 carrot, shredded

3 radishes, shredded

1 cup finely sliced lettuce

thinly sliced red onion (about 2 rings, separated)

5 fresh basil leaves, shredded

2 cups shredded chicken, either rotisserie or left over from last nights bbq

1  baguette or small french loaf, halved lengthwise

mayonnaise

Whisk rice vinegar, oil sugar, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.  In a larger bowl, combine carrot,  radishes, lettuce, onion and basil.  Pour dressing over, toss and let stand 10 minutes while you shred the chicken and assemble the sandwiches.

Spread mayo over cut sides of bread, top bottom half with the shredded chicken then the tossed veggies.   Add the top half of the bread and enjoy!

Uncategorized

Dear Hipster Dude in the Coffee Shop Line Up

This made me laugh out loud. Had to share.

Stuff my dog taught me

dear-hipster-dudeDEAR HIPSTER DUDE:

I respect that you have strong beliefs about coffee industry practices. Before making your purchase, you need to confirm that the beans have been ethically harvested and that every worker in the farm-to-store process has been properly compensated for their efforts.  Good for you! 

I am in a bit of a rush to get to work and your conversation with the disinterested-looking fellow behind the counter is slowing things down a bit, but it is nice to have an educational opportunity so early in the day.  I am learning things about Guatemala and Mexico that I did not know before, so thanks for that!

I personally apologize for the lack of gluten-free options in the display case.  Kudos to you for using this moment to promote your friend’s new organic-vegan-gluten-free-nut-free-quinoa-only baking business.  I am not entirely sure that the disinterested-looking fellow behind the counter has the…

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Soups and Stews

Black Bean Soup

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Black Bean Soup with Brown Rice and Cotija Cheese

About 100 years ago (or so it seems), there was a fancy-dancy restaurant in Edmonton called The Carvery.  Basically, it was a steak house, but very upscale.   Anyone dining there could be assured of envious oooh and ahs from co-workers and friends.  Aside from the impeccable service, I will always remember certain dishes I was fortunate to taste there.

Escargots en Brioche, Peppercorn-encrusted Filet Mignon, but the real stand out item was their Black Bean Soup.   Honestly, it seemed the whole city was talking about it, and many, including myself were clamouring for the recipe!   I was fortunate to have a friend with sharp eyes who found it in one of the food columns of the Edmonton Journal.

That was over 20 years ago, and I am still making this soup!  (with a couple of tweaks, of course.)

 

The Carverys’ Black Bean Soup

 

2 cups dried black beans

2 Tablespoons canola oil

1  onion, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 stalks celery, sliced into 1/4″ slices

1 Tablespoon tomato paste

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground is best)

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 bay leaves

1 cup Heinz Chile Sauce (sub ketchup if you cant find the chile sauce)

4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced, or 14 oz can diced tomatoes

1  litre water (about)

1 litre chicken stock

1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or more to taste)

3/4 cup sherry

For serving:

2 cups cooked brown rice,

Cotija (or feta) cheese

 

Sort, rinse and soak beans in water over night.

In large pot over medium heat, heat the oil and add the onions, carrots and celery.  Cook, stirring occasionally until onion is translucent.  Do not let the onions brown.  Stir in tomato paste, garlic, cumin, black pepper and cayenne and cook another minute, until tomato paste darkens a bit and spices become fragrant.

Add beans and their soaking liquid to pot.  Add chicken stock and enough water to cover beans by about 2 inches.  Bring to boil over high heat for 15 – 20 minutes.  Reduce heat to low, partially cover and simmer 2 – 4 hours, until beans are soft and starting to split open.  Be sure to keep an eye on the water level, adding more water or stock as needed to keep the beans covered during cooking time.

Once beans are fully cooked, remove from heat and add salt and sherry, stirring well to combine.  Allow to cool slightly.

Working in batches, CAREFULLY, transfer to blender & puree  about 2/3 of the soup.  Pour the pureed mixture back into the pot with the whole beans.  Taste for seasoning, reheat and spoon into bowls.  Top with brown rice and cotija cheese and serve.

Additional topping ideas include, but certainly are NOT limited to:  sour cream, diced tomatoes, diced avocados and chile flakes.