Fish and Seafood · Main Courses · Pasta

Mussels in White Wine with Linguine & Fresh Herbs

I spent a summer in PEI when I was (much) younger.  Our cabin overlooked the very water from which we dug the mussels for our dinner almost daily.

Even now, some 30 years later, (oh, wait, I’m sure its only been 3 years!) whenever I see a package of mussels, I am, briefly, transported back there.  Its good to have such memories.

Of course, because of Kevin’s  allergy, I rarely cook shellfish anymore.   Since I was dining alone last week, I could not pass up that package of mussels I found in Costco!

Bonus:  I put this all together in 35 minutes!  It is quick enough for a weeknight meal, yet impressive enough to serve guests.  If you do your prep work in advance, you will be able enjoy cocktails with your guests and whip this up in the time it takes to cook the spaghetti !

 

This will serve 2 and can easily be doubled.

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Mussels in White Wine with Linguine & Fresh Herbs

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

1 cup white wine (I used a Barefoot Pinot Grigio, but any white you like to drink will work here)

1 pound mussels, rinsed, scrubbed & beards removed

250 grams linguine

1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (I had mint, cilantro, parsley & basil on hand, but toss in whatever you happen to have)

1 small tomato, diced

Bring large pot of salted water to boil.

Heat oil and butter in a large, heavy pan over medium heat.  Once foam subsides, cook garlic, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper until garlic is softened and begins to brown,  3 – 4 minutes.

Add wine and boil about 4 minutes, until liquid is reduced by half.  Add mussels, give the pan a good shake, cover and cook, shaking occasionally, until mussels open wide.  5 -8 minutes.    Turn heat off.  Remove mussels from the broth, discarding any that have not opened.

While mussels are cooking, add linguine to the pot of boiling salted water and cook until just slightly underdone.

Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water.

Add 1/4 cup pasta water to the mussel broth and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to medium, add drained linguine, tossing with tongs until linguine is coated in sauce. About 1 minute.  Thin sauce with additional pasta water if needed.

Divide linguine and mussels between 2 plates.  Sprinkle chopped herbs and tomatoes over top and serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

Appetizers and Snacks · Desserts · Sides

Tostones

Plantains…we have all seen them in the stores, sometimes green, but more often yellow with black spots so large I used to think they were past their life expectancy.  The truth is, have paid little attention to them, mostly because their appearance put me off.

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But then, one evening, watching The Amazing Race, the contestants were in Ecuador, which piqued my attention because we have friend from that country.  Wouldn’t you know it, one of the challenges was to cook plantains!!  They were making twice-fried  plantains, called Tostones.  Finally, a clue, and basically, a how to video right there, on prime time television!

I was very happy to surprise our Ecuadorian friends with a batch of these the next time they came over.

The technique is the same regardless of the colour of the plantain.  Greener ones will be savoury and can be served as part of a meal.  Salt them and dip them in ketchup, like French fries.  The yellow and black ones are riper, and therefore sweeter.  They are great for breakfast or dessert.   I like these sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.

Unfortunately there are no photos of my finished product because I was lame and forgot, but if you google Tostones, you will find many examples.

This makes 4 servings, about 120 calories per serving (without toppings, of course).

 

Tostones

2 plantains

oil for frying

Heat oil in large skillet.  You can either deep fry or just pan fry in a bit of oil.  (I chose to deep-fry mine)

Peel plantains and cut into 2″ pieces.

Add plantain pieces to hot oil and fry until they soften and are golden on both sides.  About 5 minutes.

Place fried plantains on paper towel covered work surface and gently press with bottom of a heavy glass or aa frying pan , squishing them until they are about 1/2″ thick.

Return flattened pieces to hot oil and fry until crispy.  About 3 minutes per side.

Drain on paper towels, season with salt and pepper.  Serve.

 

Cookies

Shortbread Cookies

Most of the people I know only make these at Christmas, but they are a nice treat any time of the year.  I think every Canadian household has their own version of these, from  the buttery melt in your mouth ones to the sturdy Scottish kind.

The recipes I have found are all very similar, the secret for tender shortbread seems to be room temperature butter and in working the dough less for more tender cookies.

My photo does not match the description of how to form these cookies because I tried to complicate my life by cutting them into squares.  Making the balls to form circles is much simpler.   This will make about 2 dozen cookies.

Shortbread Cookies

1 cup butter

3/4 cup icing sugar, sifted to remove any lumps  IMG_0043

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

In bowl of stand mixer, (or bowl and wooden spoon), beat together butter, icing sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.   Remove bowl from mixer stand and using wooden spoon, stir in flour until just combined.

Arrange oven racks in top and bottom of oven and preheat to 325F.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Divide dough in half and press into 2 discs. Wrap each disc in plastic and refrigerate until firm, but still soft enough to work with.

Roll into 1″ balls and place on prepared cookie sheet 2 inches apart.  Using the bottom of a glass, gently press each ball  to 1/4″ thick.

Bake until just golden, about 20 minutes, rotating pans in oven half way thru cooking.  Place pans on wire racks and let cool completely in pans.

How To... · Main Courses · Pork

Brined Pork Chops

A nice juicy pork chop is such a treat, but getting it done to that juicy stage of perfection can be difficult.   Left on the heat even a moment too long results in a dry tasteless piece of meat.  Not the dinner you were looking forward to.

Marinating your chops overnight in a light brine can fix that.  the basic brine is water, salt and sugar.  You can use just that, or start experimenting with the flavours by adding spices.  Bay leaves, mustard seeds, black pepper, chili peppers, junior berries, herbs, garlic, onions… or just leave it plain.  Whatever strikes your fancy.

This marinade will work for all cuts of pork, and chicken as well.

You can marinate for as little as 4 hours if you are pressed for time, but I prefer a full 24 hours.  Remove from the brine, pat dry and grill or pan fry as usual.   You will be pleasantly surprised at the difference a little time in brine can make.

This brine is for 2 – 4 chops, but you can easily double it.

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Brined Pork Chops

3 cups water

2 Tablespoons cider vinegar

2 Tablespoons (packed) brown sugar

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

 

Optional add-ins such as those listed below, but limited only by your imagination

1 clove garlic 

1 sprig fresh rosemary or thyme

black peppercorns

juniper berries

allspice berries

mustard seeds

Stir everything together until sugar and salt are dissolved.

Place pork chops in re-sealable plastic bag large enough to comfortably hold all the chops.  Toss in any herbs or spices you choose to use.

Carefully pour brine into bag.  Squeeze as much air as possible out of the bag and seal closed.  Massage a little to be sure the liquid has reached all parts of the pork.

Put the bag in a bowl large enough to hold any leaks that may occur and refrigerate overnight.

Remove chops from the brine, pat dry and grill or pan fry as usual.

Enjoy!!

Appetizers and Snacks · Sides

Ratatouille

Basically,  vegetables cooked in olive oil, but !Ratatouille! is so much more fun to say.

There are as many versions of Ratatouille as there are cookbooks, it seems.

This version is much quicker than some, but the flavours are great and you wont have to spend 3 hours in the kitchen.

Because the ingredients are added to the pot in the order they need to cook, there is also less clean up at the end.

Seasoning is key, be sure to salt (and taste!) as you add each veggie to the mix, or you will end up with a tasteless bowl of sad veggies.

Serve at room temperature, or just slightly warmed.    A bowl of this with a sliced  baguette, maybe a little cheese… makes a great appetizer or even a light lunch.  You can also serve it as a side to your favourite grilled meat or toss it with some cooked pasta for a quick weeknight meal.

This makes about 4 servings.  Can be made a day in advance, and best if eaten within 3 days.

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Ratatouille

1 eggplant, about 1/2 – 3/4 lb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 large white or yellow onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 red bell pepper, chopped into bite size pieces

1 small zucchini, scrubbed, quartered lengthwise, and cut into thin slices

3/4 pound ripe tomatoes, chopped coarse (about 1 1/4 cups)

1 sprig fresh rosemary (optional)

2 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried, crumbled

salt & pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Toss eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large colander and let stand in sink 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop and prep all your other veggies.

In a large skillet cook the onion and the garlic in 2 tablespoons of the oil over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened.

Pat eggplant dry with paper towels.

Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil increase heat to  moderately high and when oil is hot but not smoking, add the eggplant.   Cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, or until the eggplant is softened.  If mixture looks dry, add a bit more olive oil.

Stir in the zucchini,  bell pepper, thyme and rosemary sprigs.  Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 12 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until all the vegetables are very tender and tomatoes are soft and have released their juices.

Taste for seasoning, add salt, and pepper to taste if needed.  Remove the thyme and rosemary sprigs.  Cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute.  Remove from heat, stir in the parsley and combine the mixture well.

Let cool to room temperature.  Spoon onto crusty bread or crostini and enjoy.

The ratatouille may be made 1 day in advance, kept covered and chilled.  Bring to room temperature or reheat  before serving.

 

Breakfast · eggs

Poblano – Cheese Breakfast Casserole

I seriously debated about posting this recipe.  Not because it doesn’t taste good – it does – but because of the extra steps needed to roast and peel the poblano.   (Poblanos can be roasted an peeled the day before, so you can have everything ready when you are ready to assemble the dish, )

Some of you want to get the cooking out of the way as quickly as possible.  Others of you don’t mind a few extra steps as long as it results in a superior dish.

So, here is the compromise:  those of you who don’t have the time to be roasting and peeling the peppers, just dice them. The dish will still be good,  but with a very forward chili flavour.   Those who do have the extra time, will be rewarded with a deeper, milder poblano flavour and a silky textured casserole that is a company-worthy brunch dish.

Serves 4, easily doubled

Poblano – Cheese Breakfast Casserole

 

5 medium Poblano Chilis roasted, peeled, stems and seeds removed

3/4  cup whole milk

1 Tablespoon flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

freshly ground pepper

5 eggs

1 cup grated Manchego or Monterey Jack cheese

non stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350F.

Whisk together milk, eggs, flour, salt and pepper until well blended and foamy.

Tear poblanos into 2″ wide strips.

Spray a 9 x 9″ baking pan with cooking spray and place half the poblano strips on the bottom of the pan.

Sprinkle half the cheese over top.  Top with remaining poblanos, then sprinkle remaining cheese over the poblanos.

Gently pour egg mixture in.

Place the dish in 350F oven and bake about 45 minutes, until eggs are beginning to set.  Increase temperature to 400F for about 10 minutes, until eggs are fully cooked and top is beginning to brown.

Remove from oven, let rest 15 minutes before slicing.  Serves 4.

 

COOKS NOTES:

-If doubling, use a 9×13″ pan.

-Poblanos can be roasted an peeled the day before,

 

Chicken · Main Courses · Pasta

One-Pot Chicken Penne in Tequila Tomato Sauce

The alcohol in the tequila cooks off, but the flavour remains, adding a nice depth to this simple sauce.

You might be interested to know this is my own creation.  Because of that, I did some research as to what a serving of pasta actually is.  Answers were all over the map from as little as 60 grams all the way up to 113 grams of dried pasta.   I guess the correct answer to what is a serving is “how hungry are you?”

Because of package sizing, I allow 125 grams per person.  If it is just the two of us for dinner, I know there will be enough leftovers for tomorrows lunch.  If I am cooking for a crowd, this guarantees I will not run short of the main course.  My grandmother was not Italian, but she would have died of embarrassment if guests were ever able to reach the bottom of a serving bowl.   I learned from the best.

So, this will serve 2 people, with enough left over for someones lunch the next day.

Ready in 45 minutes or less.

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One-Pot Chicken Penne

in Tequila Tomato Sauce

1 Tablespoon canola oil

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1   6 oz chicken breast, cut into 1″ cubes

salt and pepper

2 Tablespoons tequila reposada (the gold stuff)

250 grams penne

3 cups water

14 oz can diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon butter

chopped parsley, for garnish

Parmesan cheese for serving

Lightly season the cubes of chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat canola oil over medium-high heat in large deep sided pan and add onion, and cook until onion becomes translucent and begins to brown.  Add garlic and cut chicken breast.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink.  About 3 minutes.  Chicken may not be completely cooked thru at this point.  Transfer contents of pan into bowl and set aside.

Add tequila to pan and stir to pick up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Tequila will reduce by about half after about 30 seconds.

Add 3 cups of water to tequila in the pan, then add your pasta.  Stir.  Increase heat to high, cover and bring to boil.  Watch carefully.  You don’t want this to boil over.

Once boiling remove the lid and stir frequently to be sure pasta cooks evenly and to prevent sticking.

At the 8 minute mark, when the pasta is about halfway cooked thru, add the diced tomatoes and their juices along with the chicken breast & onions.  Continue to cook, stirring often until pasta is cooked thru.

Stir in the butter, taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Sprinkle parsley over top and serve with parmesean cheese on the side.

 

 

 

Salads

Pennsylvania Dutch Sweet and Sour Salad Dressing (Oil Free Recipe)

via Pennsylvania Dutch Sweet and Sour Salad Dressing (Oil Free Recipe)

 

Pennsylvania Dutch Sweet and Sour Salad Dressing

A lot of people I know are intimidated by making their own salad dressings.   Thats understandable, all one has to do is look at the myriad of dressings available today to make them think anything coming out of their kitchen could not possibly measure up to the masters at Kraft.  I get it.  it is intimidating, plus, look at all that variety!  And, its so convenient.  There are a lot of arguments for buying commercially made dressings, and I admit to succumbing to the lure of their simplicity at times.

But, have you taken the time to read the labels on those bottles before you plunk them in your cart? The bottle of Ranch in my fridge includes cornstarch, MSG,  artificial flavours, Xanthan gum, EDTA and 3 other ingredients I can barely pronounce.

You will note that you can pronounce all the ingredients in this dressing, and all of them are probably already sitting right there in your kitchen.

This recipe makes 1 pint, so after you spend 15 whole minutes putting this together, you have about the same amount as a bottle of commercial dressing, so it is just as convenient.

It has a lot of flavour, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure I liked it at first.  But by the end of my salad, I was a fan.  If you like bread and butter pickles, you will enjoy this dressing.

An added bonus is that it has NO FAT or OIL

and, I give it extra points because it includes Pumpkin Pie Spice, making it the perfect dressing for this time of year.

Click here, or on the link above to take you to the original blog, by TRKINGMOMOE

Ingredients:

1 cup water

3⁄4 cup sugar

1⁄4 cup white vinegar

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 teaspoon paprika

1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper

1⁄4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1⁄2 teaspoon onion powder

1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

In a small sauce pan heat water and sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes or until cool enough to pour in food processor or blender. In food processor with blade or blender, add all other ingredients with sugar water. Blend for 30 seconds. Store in refrigerator until use. This recipe makes about 2 cups of dressing. It keeps several months stored in a jar in the refrigerator.