How To... · Soups and Stews

Chicken Stock

Yup, it is exactly the same as Turkey Stock, but a whole lot more versatile.

In my family, there is a certain traditional flavour we expect Turkey Soup (and stock) to maintain, whereas chicken stock can go in so many different directions.

The beginning is simple.  Start with a pot full (about 2 kilos) of chicken bones, backs, thigh bones, breast bones.   (Honestly, if you are not already doing this, keep a zip lock bag in your freezer and any time you have to remove a breast bone, or de-bone a chicken thigh, toss it in the freezer bag.  You will be surprised at how little time it takes to fill it up.  Once full, it should weigh about 2 kilos, which is enough for  2 – 3 litres of stock. )

Toss the frozen contents of that bag into a stock pot, add water to just cover the chicken pieces.   Toss in 1 onion, quartered, 2 stalks of celery, cut into 2″ pieces, 2 carrots, peeled and cut into quarters, and a handful of parsley stems.

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This batch included chile d’arbole and dried chipotle, along with garlic and cilantro

Now for the fun part; any number of additions can be made in any combinations you like, depending on how you plan on using the stock once finished:  oregano, thyme, dill, ginger, cilantro, dried chilies, garlic, lemons, lime, use your imagination.

Once you have everything in the pot, bring to just below the boiling point over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours.  Keep an eye on the water level, it should just cover the bones to begin with, and as the stock simmers, the level of liquid will reduce by about 2″.    Avoid letting it boil and try not to stir too much as this will make your stock cloudy.   Remove from heat, cool slightly and strain the broth.  Discard solids  (you can pick the meat off the bones at this point to use in the soup if you like, but my personal opinion is that the meat has boiled so long, all the flavour has left it by now).    Let stock stand, uncovered until it cools to room temperature.  Then transfer smaller containers and refrigerate, uncovered until completely cool.  Do not cover until completely cool or the stock will turn sour and unusable.   Once cooled, any fat can be easily removed and discarded.

And that is it!  Simple.   Stock will keep in the fridge for 5 days.  You can freeze it for up to 3 months.

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How To...

How to Cook Dried Beans

Its true, you cant beat the convenience of canned beans.  But, making your own beans is really very simple.  Once you have the basics down, soaking and cooking, you can take a pot of plain beans in any direction you choose.   There are other ways to soften dried beans, but I get the best results this way.

2 cups dried beans – black, kidney, navy, pinto, garbanzo..any kind you choose, really.

Place them on a cookie sheet and give them a quick sort to remove any tiny stones or broken beans.

Watch for (and remove!) the little stones hidden inside each bag of beans.  They can be a real party killer.  

Toss the beans in a colander under cool running water to rinse, then place in a bowl and add water to cover by 1 inch.   Remove and discard any beans that float.  Cover and let soak overnight.

Put beans and soaking liquid in pot.  Bring to boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer, partially covered, adding more water as necessary for several hours until beans are tender.  How long will depend on the type and age of the bean.  The older the beans, the longer they will take to soften.   Moe or less, allow from 1 – 3 hours.  Just be sure keep an eye on them while they simmer.

Once the beans are tender, you can spice them up any way you choose, including subbing them in any recipe that calls for canned beans, which means less sodium and NO Preservatives!!  Will keep 5 days, refrigerated.

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.

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 .


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.

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


Step 4 – Grill over direct heat till its done how you like it. About 4 minutes per side for Medium Rare
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.
STEP 6 – Enjoy!!


How To... · Main Courses · Soups and Stews

Turkey Stock


Finally, a free day for me, which means I have time to move last weeks turkey carcass out of the freezer and into my stock pot!!

Not that making stock is difficult, or time consuming, when one really stops to think about it.  Just put the ingredients into a pot, cover with water and let it simmer away on the stovetop for a couple of hours while I putter away at something else.

My plan today was to take a short nap, then write this blog while the stock simmered.  The nap part came off without a hitch,  but my computer wanted no part of my plan, and the stock is finished and cooling and I am just starting this blog.   Hmm.

There are so many reasons for making your own stock, aside from making your house smell awesome with very little effort, but in this case,   if you want turkey soup, you will have to make your own stock.   I don’t think they sell it.

This is the basic recipe.  Use your imagination to expand its flavour profile.  My stock today included 1 jalepeno, a small piece of ginger, 8 chicken thigh bones (left over from last nights dinner) and some cilantro stems.  The add-ins are limited only by your imagination, really.

Oh and thanks to my genius friends suggestion, cooling stock in 80F weather just got a whole lot easier ( and faster):  run a sink full of cold water, plunk the pot with the strained broth in it and let the water work its magic.



Turkey Stock

1 leftover turkey carcass, bones and any skin that family members did not peel off the bird   as you were trying to carve it on the big day

1 onion, quartered

2 carrots, peeled

4 stalks celery

2 teaspoons black peppercorns

water to cover

Bring to boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface.  Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for 2hours.  Remove lid and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes to reduce the stock just a little.

Let stand 30 minutes to cool a bit.   Strain thru colander into another pot large enough to hold all the stock.    (Be careful when working with hot liquids).  When bones are cool enough to handle, you can pick the meat off the bones to put back into the soup, or you can toss all the solids and just keep the stock.

Strain the soup again thru a fine mesh strainer.  Let cool completely before refrigerating or  packaging to freeze.

This will keep in your fridge for 3 days, or up to 3 months in your freezer.

How To...

Preserved Lemons

These work great in Middle eastern dishes or if you are not so inclined, you will enjoy the brightness they bring to your  couscous or quinoa salad.    Add preserved lemon peel to dips, salads, cooked lentils , caesars or anywhere you want a huge hit of flavour.    Just be sure to remove the pulp and rinse the skin to remove extra salt.  You want a lemony flavour, with a hint of salt, not a salt lick.  Thank you Jan Nelson for introducing me to this wonderful condiment!

Bonus, you can sub limes for the lemons, and take your East Indian and Curry dishes to a whole new level.   Maybe even your Margaritas, but I havent tried that yet.


Preserved Lemons or Limes

4 – 6  lemons or limes, washed and scrubbed well to remove any pesticide residue

1/2 cup kosher or other non-iodized salt

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Special Equipment

1 pint jar


Sterilize a 1 pint jar.

img_1993Slice stem ends off of lemon.  Quarter each lemon, cutting ALMOST all the way thru.  You want the lemon to still hold together at the bottom.

Put 2 teaspoons salt to bottom of pint jar.  Sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt into each lemon, massaging lightly to distribute salt thru all quarters.   Pack lemon into jar, cut side down, squishing, to release some of its juices and repeat with remaining lemons until jar is full.  A pint jar will hold 3 – 4 lemons depending on their size.   Leave  1/2″ head space in the jar.

Squeeze enough juice from remaining lemons to cover the lemons  in the jar.   Screw on the lid and let stand at room temperature for 5 days, shaking the jar gently once or twice daily.   (I like to cover the jar with saran wrap before putting the lid on to prevent the salt from corroding the lid)

After 5 days, add enough olive oil to the jar  to completely cover the lemons and store in the fridge for up to 3 months.  (Some site I have checked  say 6 months, and some claim that you can keep them much longer, just FYI).

Dairy · How To... · Uncategorized

Make Panner @Home

I was so happy to find this! Very much like cottage cheese, but with an extra step!

Smart Veg Recipes

Paneer (Cottage Cheese)  is good for teeth and bones. It is good source of rich protein, vitamin-B. It helps in making immune system strong and  very good for kids. It has Linoleic  fatty acid; which is good for heart. Using Paneer varieties of dishes can be made; which is loved by everyone. 


  •  Milk – 2 liter
  • Fresh lemon juice – 3/4 tbs
  • Ice cube/cold water
  • Cheese clothes/cotton handkerchief/Muslin cloth
  • Any heavy weight item like pressure cooker, mortar


Step 1 – Take milk in large bowl and boil it

Step 2 – When milk starts boiling, add one cup of cold water to reduce temperature

Step 3 – Add lemon juice and stir it also reduce stove flame.When milk curdle completely then switch off the stove and add ice cube or ice cold water

Step 4 – Keep  strainer on top of bowl and cover with cloth then…

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How To...

Pumpkin Puree

I could not resist the little guy when I saw him in the market the other day.  Probably weighed only 2 kilos, fat, perfectly formed and cute as a button.

Meet Jack. He was too cute to leave in the store.

So I brought him home and there he sat on my counter for several days.   I named him Jack… O’Lantern.

Trouble was, it was WAAAY too far away from Halloween to consider keeping.  Even in the fridge, a month is a long time for a pumpkin to wait.  Plus, there was really no point in carving it.  Trick-or-Treating is not a tradition here, though it might have been a fun thing for Kevin and I to look at for a couple of days.  Who am I kidding?  In this heat it would have moulded and started to rot before we got the candle inside lit.   And I wont mention the inevitable parade of ants that an open pumpkin sitting anywhere would have attracted.  Those little guys are very alert to any possible food sources!

It is Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend, and Jack would have made a swell table decoration.  Except, with Kevin still more than 2000 miles away, I really wasn’t up to cooking a whole turkey this weekend.  Besides all that, finding turkeys here at this time of year can be difficult.

So, back to Jack, my little wannabe … something! anything!   I finally decided to turn him into puree and from there, figure out how to put him to good use.  It is 31 C with 75% humidity here today.  Not sure why, but I didn’t feel like roasting Jack in a 350F oven for an hour or more.  (You know how squashes can be stubborn sometimes when it comes to roasting) .

After cutting Jack carefully in half and removing the seeds, I added 2 Teaspoons of water to each half, covered each one with a coffee filter (NO  plastic in the microwave for this girl!) and popped both halves in the microwave.


While Jack baked  in the microwave, I  cooked the pumpkin seeds , sprinkled with some Himalayan salt, over medium-low heat.  It took about the same length of time to toast the seeds as it did to cook the pumpkin.   Worked great, just be sure to stir frequently to avoid scorching.  

Stir-fried pumpkin seeds!

After 20 minutes in the microwave, the pumpkin was tender when poked with a fork so I deemed it done.  With oven mitts and much care, I removed the 2 halves from the microwave and placed them on the cutting board to cool.  Once cool enough to handle I scooped the flesh away from the skin (which had darkened considerably) and put it in the food processor.  (The flesh, not the skin.  Throw the skin out or put it in your compost)

A couple of whirls and ta-dah… Pumpkin Puree!  Once the spices have been added it will look more like the stuff from the can.   I am looking forward to trying this in a pie, or some kind of loaf!

600 ml fresh pumpkin puree, ready for pie