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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Caramel Sauce

Talk about yummy! Served warm, this easy sauce is a great topper for cake, ice cream, apple pies, poached pears, or anything you fancy! Make it in advance, warming it just before you need it.


Caramel Sauce:

6 tbsp. (90 mL) butter
1 c. (250 mL) brown sugar
1/2 c. (125 mL) heavy cream

In small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter. Add sugar, stirring until completely dissolved. Whisk in cream, stirring constantly until mixture is silky smooth and a warm golden color.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Canned Salmon Quiche

Heres an interesting dinner! I made this Canned Salmon Quiche over a couple of days. After preparing and baking the crust, I wrapped and froze it for another time. A few days later, I made the easy filling, dumped it into the crust, and baked the whole thing at a moderate temperature. 

Canned Salmon Quiche ... Easy and delicious!

This is a great little recipe to keep in your back pocket. To make this as a main course, use the wholewheat crust recipe below or use leftover pie pastry. For a tasty appetizer, buy frozen tart shells at the  supermarket, adjusting the baking time for the crust in this recipe as your experience directs. If it’s tarts you’ll be making, keep an eye on the salmon filling, checking it after 15-to-20 min. 


Canned Salmon Quiche:

To Prepare the Wholewheat Crust:

1 c. (250 mL) wholewheat flour
2/3 c. (160 mL) grated cheddar
1/4 c. (60 mL) chopped toasted almonds or walnuts
Dash salt
1/4 tsp. (1.25 mL) paprika
2/3 c. (160 mL) canola oil

Preheat oven to 400 deg. F. Set 9-in. (23 cm) quiche dish (see Note) to one side. In medium bowl, mix together dry ingredients until well combined. Stir in oil, doing final mixing with fingers so oil is well distributed. Press evenly into quiche dish. Taking time and care with this step will make your quiche look good and cut well.


Taking time with the crust will improve your results!
Note: If, like me, you dont have a quiche dish this size, increase or reduce this recipe as your instincts direct. Think of this and most other recipes as a guide - not as something to follow slavishly! I have both a small quiche dish and a very large one. Using my small dish for this recipe, I reduced the proportion of everything except the salmon. Wing it, Dollinks!

To Prepare the Filling:

One - 7-1/2 oz. (213 g) can salmon with juice
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. (125 mL) sour cream
1/2 c. (125 mL) plain yogurt
1/4 c. (60 mL) mayonnaise
1/2 c. (125 mL) grated cheddar
1 small green onion (“spring onion”), chopped 
1/4 tsp. (1 mL) dill weed
3 or 4 drops hot pepper sauce

Preheat oven to 325 deg. F. Drain salmon, reserving juice. Flake salmon with fork and set aside. Combine eggs, sour cream, yogurt, mayonnaise, and salmon liquid. 

In separate bowls, combine your liquid ingredients ...

In separate bowl, mix together flaked salmon, cheese, onion, dill, and hot pepper sauce. 

And your dry ingredients. Pour the liquid into the dry.

Stir in liquid ingredients. Turn into baked, cooled pastry shell. Bake 50-to-55 min. for 9-in. (23 cm) quiche dish, and about 40 min. for the 7-in. (18 cm) dish I used. My dish is small enough that I baked this quiche in the toaster oven. Quiche will be slightly liquid at the center. Cover loosely and let rest 10 min. Serves 4.

Further Note: If you make this quiche in advance, fill the baked crust with the unbaked filling just before needed.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Squash Tea Cake

Squash Tea Cake
It stared at me from the back of the fridge. I stared back, feeling ever more guilty as each day passed. Leftover squash! What to do with it? Use it in soup? Nah ... Done that too many times. Use it in pie? Always a good idea, but I didn’t have enough of it. Use it to ... Yes! I’d use it to prepare Squash Tea Cake!

I love this easy recipe! When I didn’t have quite enough leftover squash, I added an avocado. The result was delicious. Made from any kind of squash, this sweet tea bread is ideal for serving drop-in visitors. An added bonus: It also freezes well (see Note).



Squash Tea Cake:

1 c. (250 mL) granulated sugar

1/2 c. (125 mL) brown sugar
1 c. (250 mL) mashed, cooked squash (see Further Note)
1/2 c. (125 mL) canola oil
2 eggs
1/4 c. (60 mL) cold water
2 c. (500 mL) all-purpose flour  (see Head-Scratching Note)
1 tsp. (5 mL) baking soda
1/2 tsp. (2.5 mL) salt
1/2 tsp. (2.5 mL) nutmeg
1/2 tsp. (2.5 mL) cinnamon
1/4 tsp. (1.25 mL) ginger
1 c. raisins (125 mL), plumped (see Huh? Note)
1/2 c. chopped, toasted pecans (see Yet Another Note)

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. In mixing bowl, combine granulated and brown sugars, cooked squash, oil, and eggs. Beat until well blended. Add and stir in water. Combine together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Add to squash mixture, combining well. Stir in raisins and pecans. 

Spoon batter into spray-greased and floured 9x5x3 in. (23x13x6 cm) loaf pan. Turn batter into pan, baking 60-to-75 min., until skewer poked into center comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack. Remove from pan after 15 min., continuing to cool on rack. Wrap loosely overnight, slicing one day after baking.

Note: When this tea bread is fully cool and firm, slice it into serving-sized pieces, separating each slice with a piece of parchment paper. Freeze in an air-tight container. Separating and thawing each slice will then be very quick.


Further Note: With only 2/3 c. (160 mL) squash, I added 1/3 c. (80 mL) mashed avocado.


Head-Scratching Note: I recently promised to deliver recipes in  metric and Imperial measurements. But heres where things get complicated. Strictly speaking, foods such as flour and sugar should be measured by weight, rather than volume. This blog hails from North America, where it’s rare to weigh such items. This is why I’ve expressed 1 c. all-purpose flour or sugar, for example, as 250 mL rather than 120 g. It’s far easier for us cooks to rely on a measuring cup than a weigh scale, even though weighing ingredients (as professional chefs do) is a more accurate measurement. To read more about increasing your chance of successful cooking, see my 2011 blog titled How to Measure Ingredients Accurately: http://nicoleparton.blogspot.ca/2011/06/on-measuring-ingredients-accurately-and.html


Huh? Note: To plump 1 c. raisins, add 2 tbsp. water to raisins in covered microwave-safe container, heating 30-to-60 sec. on full power. Cover container with cello wrap, slightly turning back one corner to allow steam to escape.

Yet Another Note: To toast nuts, spread small baking sheet, heating at 350 deg. F. about 10 min. Chopped nuts toast more quickly than whole ones. A toaster oven works very well for this small job.


You cant help but love this simple Squash Tea Cake!
Ready for the freezer, with parchment separations.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Tara McPherson’s Delightfully Decadent Chicken

I met Tara McPherson after our big house move from Eh? to Be (or Not to Be … For awhile, I had cold feet about this wacky idea of moving). A few days after landing in our new home, Ron opened the front door to find a rabbit nonchalantly chewing the grass. The pickings were probably slim because the deer got there first. We love living in the country, but occasionally miss the city’s decadence. This chicken recipe makes up for it. 

Tara McPherson’s Delightfully Decadent Chicken:

Chicken breasts, as needed
Beer, as needed
More beer, as desired
Herbs and spices, as desired (see Note)

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Place breasts (ensure they’re the chicken’s - not yours) in lightly greased casserole dish. Pour beer at least halfway up breasts (same advice), unless you’re Tara’s husband, Geoff, who drinks some of beer in his role as quality control tester. Dust breasts (ditto) with herbs and spices. Cover and bake 35-to-60 min. (see Timing Note). Eat dinner. Lick fingers. Lick plate. 

Note: Tara seasons her chicken with tarragon, sage, rosemary and sea salt, so I did the same. 

Timing Note: I used a 12-oz. (355 mL) can of beer to cover four chicken breasts about 2/3 up. (I divided these breasts between two small casseroles, so I could freeze one for another day). Because using extra beer affects the cooking time, I let my/the chicken’s breasts cook about 1 hr., until they were fully poached and cooked right through. 

Lick-Lick-Lick Note: As Tara promised, this chicken is delicious!


I divided my chicken breasts between two small casseroles.

The chicken in each casserole got 1/2 can of beer.

After adding the herbs Tara recommends, I covered
both casseroles, tucking them into the oven at 350 deg. F.

And here’s the finished result! 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

French Christmas Croissants

Ai-eeeee! A Christmas morning brunch recipe I can blog without actually doing any work! And … A Christmas morning brunch recipe you can make without actually doing any work! What could be simpler? Here we go, Dollinks!

French Christmas Croissants:

Croissants, as needed, allowing 2 per person
Eggs, as needed, allowing 1 egg for every 2 or 3 croissants
Splash of milk or light cream
Splash of vanilla, as desired 
Cinnamon-Sugar, as desired (see Note)
Dusting of icing sugar (“powdered” sugar), as desired
Maple syrup, as desired

Preheat spray-greased electric griddle to 350 deg. F. or heat spray-greased large skillet to medium high on stove-top. Slice each Croissant in half, lengthwise. Set aside. Using a whisk, beat eggs with a little milk or cream, vanilla, and Cinnamon-SugarDip each cut end in egg mixture. Up-end onto griddle or skillet just until egg mixture sets, about 45 sec. Plate Croissants, dusting with sieved icing sugar. Serve with maple or other syrup.

Note: To make Cinnamon-Sugarcombine 2 tsp. granulated sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon, mixing well. If you want to get really fancy, serve these Croissants with bacon, sausages, and fresh fruit. Ooo-la-la! 


Using a fork, whisk together eggs and milk.

Halve Croissant lengthwise. 

Dip cut ends in egg.

Cook on the egg-dipped side as you would French toast.

These Croissants appear to be spooning. Next? Forking.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas Spirits Martini

My husband Ron invented this drink only moments ago! I’m blogging it because: 
The glass is titled because I could mot hold it
stairght... srtarigth ... STRAIGHT.


(1) It’s easy and delicious 
(2) Ron has already taken a photo of the finished product 
(3) I can remember the ingredient proportions even though I’m blitzed 
(4) I can take credit for this drink despite having nothing to do with its creation.

Christmas Spirits Martini:

3 oz. (90 mL) vodka, chilled 
1/2 oz. (15 mL) orange-flavored liqueur, chilled (Ron insists Grand Marnier is the best choice for this recipe) 
Cranberry juice, as required to top up 2 glasses

Chill glasses in freezer. Combine all ingredients in a martini shaker. Shake-shake-shake, discarding ice. Serves 2.

Note to Karin, who wrote the comment below: Ron originally made this superb drink to serve lil ol me. I had a single drink and passed out. (And yes, I did indeed post this recipe at 6 a.m. If our chandelier weren’t so poorly bolted to the ceiling, I’d swing from it). So - with the addition of more cranberry juice - this great recipe now serves 2! 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Barley and Vegetable Soup

Barley soup is just about the cheapest soup you can make, especially if it’s meatless. Not thickened with cream or flour, it’s a calorie-wise choice. Even better, this soup is loaded with veggies and is made with vegetable broth, making it ideal for vegetarians. What’s not to like? Barley, you say? Get over it!


Barley and Vegetable Soup:

3/4 c. (180 mL) pearl barley

11 c. (2.6 L) vegetable stock, divided
2 tbsp. (30 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 c. (350 mL) chopped onion
1 c. (250 mL) chopped carrots
1/2 c. (125 mL) chopped celery
1 c. (250 mL) thinly sliced mushrooms
Dash salt
1/4 tsp. (1.25 mL) dried parsley flakes 
Gravy darkener, if desired (I didn’t desire, preferring my soup au naturel)

Rinse barley under cold, running water. In large, heavy saucepan, bring 3 c. (750 mL) of the vegetable stock to a boil. Stir in barley. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 1 hr. or until liquid is absorbed. Check frequently in final minutes to ensure barley does not boil dry or burn.


In another large, heavy saucepan, heat olive oil on medium-high. Add onion, carrots, celery, and mushrooms. Cover and cook 5 min. or until veggies start to soften. Add remaining vegetable stock. Simmer, covered, 30 min. longer. Stir in barley and parsley flakes, simmering a further 5 min. Serves 6.



Add barley to vegetable stock in large, heavy saucepan.


Chop onions and other vegetables.

Cook in olive oil 5 min., until veggies start to soften.


Ready when you are!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Easy Cheesy Baked Fish

Whether it’s seafood or steak, I don’t like buying commercially pre-seasoned products. Doing so means that every piece tastes exactly the same, bite after bite after boring bite. You’ll usually find this stuff in your’s grocer’s freezer case, in packages almost as big as a Volkswagen. You, O Canny Consumer, will know that prepackaged products usually give you a big wallop of sodium, and that too much of the stuff is definitely not good for your health. 

   
This dish has zero added salt: The condensed soup and the cheddar in it already have plenty. That aside, this easy dinner is almost as quick to make and is definitely cheaper than a prepackaged one! 


Easy Cheesy Baked Fish:

1 lb. (454 g) fresh or thawed snapper (see Note
One 10 oz. (285 mL) can condensed cream of celery or cream of mushroom soup
2 tbsp. (30 mL) white wine or milk
1/2 c. (125 mL) grated cheddar 
Dash paprika
Dash fresh or dried dill weed

Preheat oven to 350 deg, F. Spray-grease shallow casserole dish. Lay each filet flat in dish. In a small bowl, combine condensed soup, wine or milk, and cheddar. Pour over fish. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake, covered, 25 min. Dust with dill. Serves 4.

Note: I used snapper for this recipe, but any thick-bodied, filleted fish (cod, halibut, barramundi, salmon …) is equally tasty.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Potage Velouté de Céleri

Don’t let this recipe’s fancy name put you off. This velvety cream of celery soup is so elegant that I felt it deserved the flourish of an equally elegant French name.

Potage Velouté de Céleri:

8-to-10 c. (1.9-to-2.4 mL) chicken stock
8-to-10 medium stalks celery with leaves, coarsely chopped (see Note
1-to-2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 large potato, coarsely chopped 
1/4 c. (60 mL) butter or margarine
1/2 c. (125 mL) all-purpose flour
1-1/2 c. (350 mL) light cream (also called half-and-half “coffee cream”)
2 tbsp. (30 mL) celery salt plus 1/2 tsp. (2.5) table salt, or to taste (see Further Note)
1/2 tsp. (2.5) coarsely ground pepper, or to taste

Pour stock into a large, heavy pot, bringing to a boil. Add celery, carrots, onion, and potato. Simmer, covered, for 20 min. Cool 10 min. Working with a few cups at a time, transfer to blender and purée on highest setting. Set aside. Use slotted spoon to strain for lumps or solid bits of vegetable; discard or blenderize again, if necessary. 

Wipe soup pot with a clean cloth to remove and solid bits of vegetables or celery fibers. Transfer blenderized soup to pot, reheating on simmer setting.

In medium saucepan over medium-low setting, melt margarine or butter. Gradually whisk in flour until no lumps remain. Slowly add cream and seasonings. Gradually stir flour mixture into hot soup. Serves 8-to-10.

Note: If desired, reserve a few uncooked celery leaves, chopping them finely to sprinkle over each bowl. This is a fancy little garnish that I’d only bother with for guests. 

Further Note: Made from ground celery seeds and salt, celery salt is one part celery seed and two parts salt. I consider it more of a seasoning than a “salt.” That’s why I’ve used such a liberal hand with the salts in this recipe. 

One More Note: Check out another Cream of Celery Soup at http://nicoleparton.blogspot.ca/search/label/Soup%20%28Hot%29%3A%20Celery%20%28Cream%20of%29


Monday, December 14, 2015

Acorn Squash with Holiday Chutney

Four days week ago, after a four-month absence from the kitchen, I announced that I hated cooking. My position has softened. I’ve rediscovered that I like creating new dishes and like following trusted recipes. What I don’t like is slamming together some factory-frozen prepared food because I don’t have five minutes to spare, which is what happened night after night during our lengthy house move.

Perhaps you feel the same - that cooking is boring, that it’s something you don’t really want to do, but have to. Stick with me, kid. Some of the trusted, tested recipes in this blog are family favorites. Some, I’ve got from friends. Some, from cookbooks. Some, from husband Ron, a far better cook than I could ever be. And some, I’ve invented or adapted to create something new. I came up with this Holiday Chutney when I wanted to add some oomph! to everyday squash. I now proudly present my recipe to you. 

If you hate cooking, get creative! Even if you’re short on time, run a little jelly through that pudding made from powder; jazz up that spaghetti sauce mix with fried onions, green peppers, and chili; add toasted nuts, pumpkin seeds, and craisins to that ho-hum brown rice. I wouldn’t exactly turn down an invitation to a good restaurant, but I now like cooking again. 


Acorn Squash with Holiday Chutney:

To Prepare the Squash:

1 acorn squash, unpeeled and quartered

Using a grapefruit knife, remove fibers from centre of cut side. Steam, cut-side down, about 35 min., until fork-tender.

To Prepare the Chutney: 

1/4 c. (60 mL) cold water
10 dried apricots, roughly chopped
About 12 red and green glacé cherries, sliced in halves 
1/3 c. (80 mL) Ron’s BBQ Sauce (see Note)
1 or 2 medium tomatoes, quartered
1/4 c. (60 mL) savory jam (see Another Note
1 c. (250 mL) fresh baby spinach leaves, stemmed and compressed into measuring cup

Bring water just to the boil and remove from heat. Add apricots, soaking 15 min. to soften. Combine apricots, water, glacé cherries, Ron’s BBQ Sauce, tomatoes, savory jam, and spinach leaves in microwave-safe dish. Cover and microwave on high about about 5 min., adding slightly more water, if needed. Fill hollows of quartered squash, serving at once. A little chutney goes a long way: Be skimpy, rather than generous. 

Note: We always try to keep some of this excellent BBQ sauce on hand. Youll find it at: 
http://nicoleparton.blogspot.ca/search/label/Sauces%3A%20Ron%27s%20BBQ

Another Note: Try some mincemeat or passion-fruit-and-tomato or a mixture of fried chopped onions, a splash of balsamic vinegar, and a few seeded raisins ... In other words, something sticky but not too sweet.

Steam squash about 35 min.


Use a medium tomato ... Not too big,, not too small.

With all ingredients in dish, and stir.

Cook 5 min. in microwave-safe dish.

Chutney will darken and thicken.

Spoon into hollows in squash.