Spinach Stuffing Balls a ‘Throwback’ Recipe

Today I’m going to give you a ‘throwback recipe’…because it’s Thursday. Get it?
I’ve been thinking about my early days as a mom recently, perhaps it’s because several of my friends are just starting to have babies or maybe it’s because my own children are no longer ‘little ones’. Back in the day, let’s say 20 years back, there was no google.  Any sort of parenting advice that I received came from my mother, books, or my network of mom friends.
The same went for cooking. In my younger days as a university student mom our meals were simple and sometimes contained pre packaged ingredients.  What can I say? As a cash strapped, naïve, ‘just off the farm’ young mom with little time to cook, packaged food was awfully convenient. We ate a lot of canned soup, zoodles, hot dogs, and mac ‘n’ cheese which I carefully balanced out with a salad or fruit. I wasn’t completely clueless. On the weekends I had a bit more time to experiment and often made muffins, lasagna, and always a roast beef for dinner.
I remember looking for an easy side dish for a Thanksgiving feast one year. My parents were driving the two hours to visit us for a special meal in our tiny apartment in Saskatoon. I wanted something a bit different than the usual mashed potatoes, carrots, and stuffing to go with the turkey. Also, sneaking spinach into something yummy and hand held was an important part of my repertoire as the mom of a young toddler. I think I must have found this recipe on the side of the stuffing box, but I’m not quite sure.028
I made these stuffing balls again recently for a large family get together and my son’s fiancée begged to take the leftovers home. It’s been so long since I’ve made them I wasn’t sure if they were still relevant in our house in the present day, but they were still quite popular. The next time I make them I will play around a bit with the seasoning as I found them incredibly salty. I think that this is one of those dishes that can easily be converted by using quality whole food ingredients instead of pre-packaged nonsense.
 Spinach Stuffing Balls
Ingredients
6 eggs, lightly beaten
6 oz. pkg. stuffing mix*
1/2 cup butter (use unsalted if using a stuffing mix), melted
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Method
In a bowl, combine eggs, stuffing mix, butter, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Add spinach; mix well. Shape into 1-1/2-in. balls; place in an ungreased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.014
*You could use regular dried bread cubes here, but do use small cubes and not crubs or torn dried bread. I think it works better for the texture and appeal. If you are using plain bread crumbs and not the stuffing mix, add regular spices as you would in your stuffing mix (Sage, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper).
spinachballs

Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse Calgary

Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse is open Calgary! Run…don’t walk, and make sure you bring an empty stomach plus an iron will to your Brazilian Steakhouse experience. The first thing you will notice upon entering Pampa is the aroma. I’m not talking about the smell of succulent, dripping, premium cuts of Alberta beef (that will come later) but the pleasant lungful of wood smoke which emanates from the authentic Brazilian rotisserie oven in the back of the restaurant. Oh my. It’s like I’m Pavlov’s dog and I want whatever is on that bone! My salivary glands were on overdrive Wednesday night as I attended one of several media nights held this week. CaipirinhaAs soon as I had checked my jacket at the coat check, owner Oscar Lopez handed me a welcome cocktail. The Caipirinha is the national drink of Brazil and very popular there. It contains lots of lime muddled with super refined white sugar and a Brazilian style rum called Cachaça which is distilled from sugarcane juice.  While it’s a very refreshing cocktail, take note…it is also a sipping cocktail. I learned this lesson the hard way back in July during the FIFA World Cup.  Pampa has some interesting spins on the traditional Caipirinha, including one featuring banana and cinnamon, and another spicy version with watermelon and chili.

While we were waiting for others to arrive Oscar told me he lives in Edmonton and runs the Pampa Location there but is also going to be visiting the Calgary location a couple of days each week.  He and executive chef Joao Dachery had opened the Edmonton location exactly four years to the day (as of February 18th). We went back to the kitchen so I could check out the large hardwood charcoal fired rotisserie grill that they imported from Brazil. I was only a couple of feet away for several minutes but in no time at all I was extremely warm! It might have been the cachaça…016After our group was all seated, chef Joao gave us a brief history of how Brazilian barbecue was started by Gauchos.  Gauchos are the Brazilian equivalent of North American cowboys who ride horses and protect cattle all day long. They carry all their supplies with them, including portions of meat underneath the back portion of their saddle. It doesn’t sound too tasty but apparently at the end of a long day, the meat is salty from the sweat of the horse and cooks up nicely over an open earth pit fire. Chef Joao assured us our meat was seasoned with salt only at Pampa. After the brief history, we were invited to wander over to the salad bar to begin our meal. I was looking forward to trying the 11 varieties of meat available on the dinner menu so I really tried not to fill up too much on the salads. It was tough though, the salads looked so fresh and inviting and I noted that several of them also contained meat. There are also some hot options such as Beef Stroganoff and mashed potatoes. In addition to the salads, I chose some ceviche and beef tartare. If you do come at lunch there is a salad bar only option, which I think would be more than satisfying without endangering afternoon productivity. All the dressings and sauces are house made, including chef Joao’s own chimichurri.saladbarcollageIf you’ve never been to a Brazillian steakhouse before, it can be pretty intense at first. Oscar explained that if you want to enjoy the whole experience it is best to start slowly, using the little service tag (pictured above with the Caipirinha) as a cue for when you would like the server to bring more meat around. Flip the tag over to the green side and the servers will come to your table and serve you meat directly from the rotisserie. Flip the tag over to the red side for when you want to relax and digest a bit or if you are entirely sure you are finished your meal. Some of the meat is individually portioned on the large serving skewers and the server will directly deposit it on your plate. For the meat that is being sliced off the skewer, you must grab it with the small set of tongs provided with your place setting. meatcollage

I took my time eating the plate I chose from the salad bar and enjoyed the three first portions of meat that came around. The marinated chicken drum, bacon wrapped chicken thigh, and Parmesan pork were all served as individual portions and I set my tag to ‘red’ so that I could take my time and really enjoy them all, especially the pork. I missed a few cuts of meat in between, like the sausage (which never came back around), and some of the sirloin.  When the house specialty Picanha (beef rump) came around I decided I couldn’t pass it up and I’m glad I didn’t. It virtually melted in my mouth. After that…other meats came one after the other until I found myself at the end, entirely satiated having tried 8 of the 11 meats available. Then there was dessert and a cachaça tasting. I loved the sweet sour combination of the passion fruit mousse with red wine and blueberry reduction but I was so full I didn’t even touch my chocolate mousse. pampadessert

If you’re looking for a place to bring the family to enjoy some protein then Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse is the place to go. The specialized charcoal rotisserie imparts a lovely flavour to the expertly marinated cuts of meat that you just can’t get from natural gas rotisseries.

Thank you to Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse for a wonderful night out. See you soon!

Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse Calgary
Centre 10, 521 10th Avenue SW

587.354.3441

Hours

Lunch:
Mon – Fri – 11:30 – 2:00

Dinner:
Mon – Thu – 4:30 – 9:30
Fri – Sat – 4:30 – 10:30
Sun – 4:00 – 9:00

Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Beets – How Sweet They Are In Cake and Ice Cream

What to do with a 5 lb bag of beets from the farmer’s market? Roasted beet salad…check; Harvard beets…check; Beet, Red Cabbage and Potato Hash…check! Today there were two more experiments on the board:  One Ultimate Chocolate Beet Cake courtesy of  Nigel Slater  and another ‘something’ to go with it. I thought about a sweet beet reduction or jam but then realized that I hadn’t used the ice cream maker in a long time. Beet and Orange Ice Cream sounded like two flavours I could really get behind. It was so quirky that it might just work!beetcake1

Chocolate Beet Cake. It’s not much of a stretch from zucchini cake or my favourite Chocolate Carrot Cake from Alexander’s Restaurant in Saskatoon. Every time I drive through Saskatoon on my way home to the farm I make a stop at Alexander’s for a slice of this cake. Every time I ask for the recipe they shoot me down. Why do I still go back? Because it’s probably the best cake I have ever put in my mouth. Period.

Beets in a cake may sound like a novelty but it really isn’t. Southern cooks have been using them to make red velvet cakes for decades because they are sweet and turn a great chocolate cake to a lovely red hue. I’ve been wanting to make one for a while until one day this recipe popped up on my twitter feed. I wouldn’t necessarily use a Nigel Slater recipe (though I do love David Lebovitz and he says this recipe is tops so I’m good with that!) and particularly one that has so many gosh darn steps. I felt in some parts like I was perfecting brain surgery. In the end, all the melting, sifting, and folding were worth it.017

The cake came out quite nicely, evenly crumbed and very moist with the beets lending a sweetness to the bitter chocolate I used. I just felt so darn healthy eating this cake, I didn’t feel guilty at all especially when I served it with the beet and orange ice cream. The slight tang of citrus really went with the sweet earthiness of the beet, leaving me really happy with the flavour of the ice cream. However, I felt maybe the texture was a little off, even with the added mascarpone cheese. The ice cream recipe did not begin with a true custard, but used cornstarch instead. I felt like it was a bit of a cheat. beetcake

Nigel Slater’s Extremely Moist Chocolate Beet Cake (Nigel Slater)

Ingredients

8 ounces fresh beets

7 ounces fine dark chocolate (70%)

1/4 cup hot espresso

3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp butter

1 cup plus 2 tbsp flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

3 tbsp good quality cocoa powder

5 eggs

Scant 1 cup superfine sugar

Method

  1. Lightly butter an 8-inch springform cake pan and line the base with a round of baking parchment. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cook the beets, whole and unpeeled, in boiling unsalted water. Depending on their size, they will be tender within 30 to 40 minutes. Young ones may take slightly less. Drain them, let them cool under running water, then peel them, slice off their stem and root, and process in a blender or food processor until a coarse purée.
  3. Melt the chocolate, broken into small pieces, in a small bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Don’t stir.
  4. When the chocolate looks almost melted, pour the hot espresso over it and stir once. Cut the butter into small pieces — the smaller the better — and add to the melted chocolate. Push the butter down under the surface of the chocolate with a spoon (as best you can) and leave to soften.
  5. Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large mixing bowl. Stir the yolks together.
  6. Now, working quickly but gently, remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter has melted into the chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir in the egg yolks. Do this quickly, mixing firmly and evenly so the eggs blend into the mixture. Fold in the beets. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold in the sugar. Firmly but gently, fold the beaten egg whites and sugar into the chocolate mixture. A large metal spoon is what you want here; work in a deep, figure-eight movement but take care not to over-mix. Lastly, fold in the flour and cocoa.
  7. Transfer quickly to the prepared cake pan and put in the oven, decreasing the hea immediately to 325 degrees F. Bake for 40 minutes. The rim of the cake will feel spongy, the inner part should still wobble a little when gently shaken. Test with a cake tester or toothpick too — if it is still gooey in the center, continue baking just until moist crumbs cling to the tester.
  8. Set the cake aside to cool (it will sink a tad in the center), loosening it around the edges with a thin icing spatula after half an hour or so. It is not a good idea to remove the cake from its pan until it is completely cold.

Beet and Orange Ice Cream (from Saveur)

INGREDIENTS

2 cups milk
4 tsp. cornstarch
1¼ cups heavy cream
⅔ cup sugar
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
½ tsp. kosher salt
Peel of 1 orange
3 tbsp. mascarpone cheese, softened
½ cup puréed roasted beets

INSTRUCTIONS

1. In a bowl, stir together ¼ cup milk and the cornstarch; set slurry aside. In a 4-qt. saucepan, whisk together remaining milk and the cream, sugar, syrup, and salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add orange peel. Cook for 4 minutes; stir in slurry. Return to a boil and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes.

2. Place mascarpone cheese in a bowl and pour in ¼ cup hot milk mixture; whisk until smooth. Then whisk in remaining milk mixture; stir in beets. Leave in refrigerator overnight.

3. Remove orange peel. Pour mixture into an ice cream maker; process according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer ice cream to a storage container and freeze until set.

In My Kitchen – February 2015

February 2015 already. I’m really embarrassed but when I started with the title of this post I did actually type 2014 by mistake. Yes, it is 2015 and this is my first IMK post because I lost track of time in January. I had so many special things going on in my kitchen and I dropped the ball. Since it’s the 10th here today…I’m barely making the cutoff for February too. Things are getting a lot busier with my blog both in my kitchen and out in the food world and I really have to keep a better eye on those deadlines!

In My Kitchen is a fun monthly blog ‘challenge’ hosted by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial where many bloggers from around the world share what has been going on in their kitchens. In winter I especially look forward to the posts from Australia because they are full of home grown produce, delicious barbecue, and other summery goodness.

First things first… I’m going to include a photo from January because Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen turned two! I celebrated by making this Italian Cream Cake with Pecans and Toasted Coconut.

creamcake4Italian Cream Cake 

I learned to make two meatloaves instead of one because the first one disappeared before I could even snap one photo!

meatloaf1Pork Meatloaf with Bacon, Thyme, and Bacon

I’ve continued experimenting with cocktails and making my own fruit syrups. This one is pink grapefruit. There’s a high probability of gin being included in this cocktail.008These gorgeous San Marzano tomatoes made all the difference in this lentil dish with chorizo and harissa.tomatoesI put ‘Pucker’, the new cookbook from local food blogger and Calgary Herald writer Gwendolyn Richards to good use. So far every recipe that I have made from this book has been ridiculously tasty.puckercollage

Speaking of ‘Pucker’, I discovered my dad really like marmalade during our last visit back home. I bought a huge box of Meyer lemons and made my very first batch of marmalade. It sure is a lot of work to slice them all so thinly.IMG_20150205_103623Hubby has been busy in my kitchen too! Here he is checking the mash temperature on latest batch of beer with the help of our local beer expert Duchess.IMG_20150111_120734I’m going to finish up with something special that wasn’t in my kitchen for very long. This prune and pecan scroll from local bakery Sidewalk Citizen. Everything I have eaten from Sidewalk Citizen has been amazing, there is nothing that this man, Aviv Fried, cannot bake. I often wonder how many proposals he gets per month. Celia, if you were to visit me in Calgary this is the first place I would take you. IMG_20150129_120726

The Best Lentil Dish Ever – with Chorizo, Harissa, and Shrimp

I would like to tell you about the day I’ve had.  It was a day that started out like every other day except for the small matter of an appointment for a physical in the afternoon. No big deal. Everyone should get poked and prodded in a medical sort of way at least once a year. Except…this is a big year for me. I’m turning 40 and apparently everything changes…again! Just when you think you know your body, it gets older and shifts a little here and there. Then you find yourself wondering just who that person is in the mirror looking back at you.

Everything checked out just fine but I now have to reschedule for blood tests and a mammogram (because I’m old) next week. I should have kept my mouth shut when the doctor said I was ‘only 39′ and so I had one more year until I had to put my girls through the torture machine (she didn’t say that, I’m just dramatic in nature). “Nope,” I said with a big stupid smile on my face…”I’ll be 40 next week!” The words were right out of my mouth before I could even think of the possible consequences. And now, here I am. I will wait until I’m 40 to book the appointment just for kicks.

So, the afternoon was a bit stressful. The evening got worse. There’s nothing like bringing your baby boy to his high school open house to add salt to old wounds. I never had any problems with any of the kids going to school before but for some reason the prospect of my baby being in high school next year really got to me.lentils1

Is it a little bit presumptuous to entitle a blog post beginning with ‘The Best … Dish Ever’? I just really want to emphasize that this dish is perfect in every way. From the earthiness and texture of the Umbrian lentils, to the acidity of the San Marzano tomatoes, and the spice from the harissa and chorizo which was declared by my 16 year old to be ‘just perfect’.

lentils

After the open house we all arrived back home absolutely starving. It was 9 pm and I was just finishing up cooking the shrimp so I couldn’t really tell if the boys enjoyed their dinner or not. It was over much too quickly for them to even lift their heads from their bowls to breathe, let alone grunt their approval. My daughter, who had eaten earlier, did pile on the compliments allowing me a tiny bit of solace in an otherwise trying day. This dish? It’s a bowl of comfort and you can’t go wrong serving it to finish off a rather crazy day.

Ingredients (from taste.com.au)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 chorizo sausage, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon harissa (see note)
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes (I used San Marzanos..if you can find them this is the perfect recipe to highlight their flavour)
  • 2 x 400g cans brown lentils, rinsed, drained (I had dried Umbrian lentils; they looked brown to me so I just cooked those separately until the were just about cooked)
  • 220g jar roasted red capsicums, drained, sliced
  • 1 cup (250ml) chicken stock or water
  • 500g peeled green prawns (tails intact)
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

Method

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and chorizo, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes until the onion softens and the chorizo starts to crisp. Add garlic. Stir in harissa and cook for a further minute. Add tomatoes, lentils, capsicum and stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes until the mixture has thickened slightly.

Season the prawns with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then add to the pan. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the prawns are just cooked through. Stir in the parsley,

Rodney’s Oyster House – Rodney’s Oyster 101

Oysters. You either love them or hate them. There really is no middle ground in regards to this vegan bivalve. Those that hate oysters tend to not ever be able to get over the slimy, slightly snotty texture or the fact that they are eating a live being. Just barely a year ago I fell into this category…until I really gave oysters a chance. I’m pleased to admit that I am now able to enjoy them, however, I am still trying to work my way up to eating them in vast quantities like I’ve seen some seasoned oyster eaters do.

My first oyster experience was last March during the Big Taste Calgary event. As it was part of an event at River Café, I gathered my courage, opened my throat, and let it slide down. It wasn’t bad. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to have oysters at various events and restaurants and on Friday I enjoyed an ‘Oyster 101′ evening hosted by Rodney Clarke himself. He is currently in Calgary overseeing the first few opening weeks of the newest Rodney’s Oyster House at 355 10th Ave SW.  IMG_20150130_162948Rodney Clarke
Rodney has been in the oyster business for nearly 40 years. He started out shucking oysters at home parties, then began delivering oysters on a small scale which eventually turned into a wholesale business. He takes great pride in the quality of product and service that he provides, learning early on from his father that “If you give a person a good oyster, you’ll have them forever’. With the help of some investors he opened his first oyster bar in Toronto with a small 18 seater in 1987 that has grown in size over the years. After opening two locations in Vancouver (in Gastown and Yaletown) in recent years, Rodney believed it was time for Calgarians to get a share of some oyster love. Though he’s been coming to Calgary for over 19 years for the Mount Royal ‘Pearls of Wisdom‘ charitable event, Calgarians can finally enjoy some of his East coast hospitality.

Rodney’s Oyster House Calgary

Rodney’s opened quietly on Monday, January 26. There were no large parties or blowouts, the focus being on treating the limited number of customers to the best of their ability. There will be limited reservations and walk-ins for the first couple of weeks to ensure that everyone enjoys their experience. In fact eventually only 3/5 of the restaurant will be reservable, leaving lots of seating room for walk in customers. The Oyster 101 class that I was invited to was a media event sponsored by Rodney’s Calgary.  I arrived early on Friday evening to get a preview of the restaurant before the event. The interior is bright and airy, with white boarded walls and wooden flooring. East Coast nautically themed touches, including the eye catching central ‘chandelier’ composed of net and glass floats, were scattered throughout. The large room is dominated by the ‘Boulder Bar’, a triangular shaped, granite topped bar which surrounds a large Alberta Rundle Stone boulder and oyster tub. In addition to bar seating, there is seating for any size of group, from two to two hundred in various combinations around the space, including the mezzanine ‘Oarloft’ area with it’s own private shucking bar. 
PicMonkey CollageRodney’s Oyster 101

Who knew there was so much to learn about oysters? Did you know oysters are vegan, eating five different types of seaweed via the 7-9 litres of water they filter per day? Did you know there are five different varieties of North American oysters but that they aren’t all indigenous (naturally occurring)?  Did you know that an oyster can be male one year, then become female the following year? Most importantly I learned that the best oysters display three really important traits:

  1. Consistency
  2. Shape
  3. meatiness

The Tasting

We began with some nice, thick New England Clam Chowder made from East Coast bar clams and fresh quahogs from Cape Cod. It was delicious and hearty at the same time; not too salty and very thick, like coastal fog. On the same plank, we had a few pieces of Willy Krauch smoked salmon, all the way from the oldest smokehouse in Nova Scotia. We ate it on dark, dense bread with cream cheese, capers, and onions (in that order!). Then it was time for the oysters. I was just about to reach for the lemon when Rodney began to explain that the best way to eat an oyster is without sauce or lemon and to chew, rather than swallow it whole. I wasn’t going to argue with a three time Canadian oyster shucking champion! Each one was paired with a wine, except the last which was paired with Steamwhistle pilsner. I took one look at the last oyster and panicked a bit. I thought about asking for a knife and fork but by the end of the tasting I was ready to eat it whole. We began with a Vancouver Island oyster (Kusshi)and Spanish Cava. I think that one was my favourite because it had a nice salty kick to it; almost as if it had sauce on it already. We followed the first oyster with a Beach Angel from Cortez Island, BC, then another (Kumamoto) from Washington State, USA. Our final, and largest oyster (the Cotuit) was a very meaty mouthful from Maine, USA.

oystercollageOur evening was both delicious and informative. Rodney’s Oyster 101 classes will be available to book privately at some point in the future, though Rodney will be returning to Toronto soon.  After our session, we had a quick tour of the restaurant areas that haven’t been opened to the public yet. There are private rooms and a side takeout called the ‘Bait and Tackle’. There you can order some freshly shucked oysters to go as well as fish and chips, Clam Chowder, and lobster rolls. I’m expecting Rodney’s Oyster House to be a welcome (and busy) addition to the core’s lunch food scene. baitandtackle

Rodney’s Oyster House Calgary

355 10th Avenue SW
(at 4th Street SW)
Calgary, AB Canada
Phone: 403.460.0026

Rodney's Oyster House on Urbanspoon

Pork, Bacon, Leek, and Thyme Meatloaf

Please accept (in advance) my sincerest apologies to all the ‘Meatless Monday’ folk out there. I’m officially changing Mondays to ‘Meatloaf Mondays’ in honour of the humble but magnificent meatloaf. Previously I’ve always though of meatloaf as an antiquated dish, or perhaps more accurately, ‘a classic’. As a result, I’ve maybe made meatloaf three times in my (almost 40) years on this earth and now…I have a lot of catching up to do!

The family loved this meatloaf so much the first time I made it that I had no hope in getting any photos. I served it as one would classically serve a meatloaf; with mashed potatoes and peas. And it was so so good. Everyone was excited about having meatloaf sandwiches for school lunches the next day…until they woke up and discovered that their older brother had already left for work for the day, taking the rest of the meatloaf with him. No bread, no veggies, just a solid chunk of meatloaf for lunch. If there ever was a candidate for the paleo diet, he would definitely be it.

I knew that no one would be complaining if I made meatloaf twice in one week so I bought more pork mince and leeks then had another meatloaf ready in no time. This time everyone was happy. I was able to take photos during the daylight hours and everyone brought meatloaf sandwiches for lunch today. I guess I’ve learned a bit of a lesson too…always make a double recipe of meatloaf!meatloaf1

Pork, Bacon, Leek, and Thyme Meatloaf

Ingredients

  • 1.2 kg/2.6 pounds lean ground pork (pork mince)
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs or regular bread crumbs
  • 6 slices of meaty bacon; finely diced
  • 2 leeks; finely diced
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley; finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepperbaconleek

Method

Preheat oven to 325° F

Add the bacon to a skillet and cook until most of the fat has rendered out. Add the leeks on top of the bacon and cover with a lid to sweat them for about 5 minutes. Place the ground pork, crumbs, egg, thyme leaves, and diced parsley in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. When the leeks have softened, add them (with the bacon) to the rest of the ingredients in the bowl and mix well.

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and grab all the ingredients in a large ball. Place on baking sheet and mold into a loaf shape, just like if you were actually using a loaf pan. I find that baking the meatloaf on a baking pan decreases the amount of oil in your meatloaf. It doesn’t make the prettiest photos but I prefer to cook my meatloaf this way.

Bake for about an hour and a half, or until the inner temperature reaches 170°F.meatloaf2

 

Italian Cream Cake – Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen Turns Two!

Oh gosh! It seems like it’s been forever since I’ve made a cake…much too long in fact. Every celebration deserves a cake in my opinion and today is no exception…Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen turns two today!

I am constantly amazed at how much I have learned over these past two years. It’s basically been one huge learning curve right from the get go because it isn’t always easy for me to express myself artistically and literally.  I’ve always been jealous of my sisters and how darn crafty they are and I’ve never thought of myself as ‘crafty’ or ‘artsy’ in any way. Through blogging I have found my creative side and it brings me such great joy. Another perk? I’ve met so many like minded and talented people who are either part of the Calgary food scene or fellow bloggers. While knowing local foodies is great for keeping on top of the ever growing food scene here in Calgary, getting (and giving) encouragement, support, and sharing ideas with fellow bloggers have been pivotal in my blog’s success.

That leaves me with the most important people to me as a blogger…all 921 of you. Without readers who get inspired and comment on my posts, blogging would be a lot less fun. It’s strange but I never really started this to get people to follow me and I never really expected anyone to read my blog at all. Yet reading that first post comment and seeing that first ‘like’ was a definitely a thrill. I am so thankful and surprised that so many people care about what I have to say.

It’s been an amazing year and that calls for a CAKE!creamcake2

Italian Cream Cake (from Melissa’s Southern Style Kitchen)

Ingredients you’ll need:
2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup [2 sticks] salted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
5 large eggs
1 cup whole buttermilk
14 oz package sweetened flaked coconut, divided
1 1/2 cup pecan pieces toasted, divided
Frosting:
2 [8] oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup [2 sticks] butter, softened
2 lb powdered sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
reserved coconut; toasted

1/2 cup reserved toasted pecans cake

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter and flour 3 [9] inch round cake pans or spray with baking spray. Set aside.  Sift the flour, baking soda and baking powder together.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the softened butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, pure vanilla and almond extracts.  Beat until creamy and light beige in color, around 3-4 minutes  Add the eggs 1 at a time beating well after each addition.  Add the sifted dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk.  After all has been added, increase the mixer speed and beat until fully combined. Mix in 1/2 of the coconut and 1 cup of toasted pecans by hand.

Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes back clean.  Cool completely on a cooling rack.

To make the frosting:
Cream together the cream cheese and butter until light, fluffy and pale yellow in color.  Add the vanilla.  Gradually add the powdered sugar, beating until creamy and smooth.

Line the edge of the cake plate with wax paper strips.  [Tip: If storing the cake, place onto a cake round to make it easier to move from fridge to cake plate for serving]  Frost the cake between the layers sprinkling each with reserved toasted pecan pieces.

Add the final layer and frost the top and sides.  Finish the sides with toasted coconut.  Decorate the top as desired with the remaining chopped pecans.  Store chilled.  Yield: 12 pieces

*note this makes a lot of frosting. You will have some left over to make cupcakes….YAY!

creamcake3

And a piece for you. Thank you so much for reading my blog. I’m looking forward to a new year and new experiences!

Back Home Sweet ‘n’ Smokey Bourbon Beans

Age is all a matter of perspective. There are days when I’m pretending to be grown up and days when adult responsibility slaps me in the face. Maybe it’s a bit odd for a mother of three (and one who is about to turn 40) to say that she doesn’t feel grown up but then again isn’t ‘feeling young’ what keeps us young?

I had a really great visit with my grandparents while back in Saskatchewan for the Christmas holidays. My dad suggested that we visit Grandpa as soon as we got there because he was having some ‘good days’, having just returned from yet another hospital stay.  I’m glad we took his advice because we had a wonderful visit with Grandpa and he was spry enough to play one whole game of cards with us before he became weak and retired to his comfy chair in the living room. As we listened to Grandpa’s stories of the past I felt the connection of generations of prairie loving Germans, of hardships and sacrifices, but mostly of love. He told us what it was like to grow up in a family of 14 kids (12 boys, 2 girls) and how great grandma fed everyone back then. They didn’t make many trips to the big city to buy food but his mother would spend a day each week traveling there by horse to sell any extra food that they were able to raise/slaughter/preserve. I told him of my sauerkraut experiments and how I’ve mostly gotten them wrong. He let me in on a few family kraut making secrets…but first I need to find a 45 gallon drum and a ‘cartload’ of cabbages!

I didn’t ask, but I am going to make an assumption that great grandma also fed the family a lot of baked beans. She may have grown the beans in the garden and dried them herself or more likely just bought them by the bagful, already dried, during one of her many trips to town. This dish is, in all honesty, a cheap way to feed protein to a large family. Especially when you raise the hogs and smoke your own bacon! I’m pretty sure there was also a backyard still set up to provide libations but we didn’t talk about that either…beans

Sweet & Smokey Bourbon Beans (from The Cozy Apron)

The great thing about this bean recipe is that they are made stove top. You could also make them the day before. I always think they taste better the second day.

Ingredients:

1 lb dry great northern beans (or small white beans or navy beans) soaked overnight in water and drained of excess
5 cups chicken stock (*see note below)
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, pressed through garlic press
• Salt
• Cracked black pepper
¾ cup ketchup
¾ cup BBQ sauce
1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
• Pinch or two ground cumin
• Pinch or two smoked paprika
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
• Olive oil
12 oz apple smoked bacon, crisped and chopped
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon

(*Start with the 5 cups of chicken stock; as the beans cook, you may need to add additional water in small increments if the beans are still a bit hard but are absorbing the liquid.)

031Beans are always better the next day. Especially on toast!

Preparation:

-Add the soaked beans to a large pot; next, add in the chicken stock, the diced onion, the garlic, a few generous pinches of salt and of cracked black pepper, the ketchup, BBQ sauce, tomato paste, ground cumin and paprika, plus the brown sugar, molasses and a generous drizzle of olive oil, and stir the ingredients together; place the pot over high heat, uncovered, and once the contents begin to boil, reduce the heat to medium-low or low, partially cover with a lid, and simmer the beans for about 4 hours, stirring occasionally (you may need to add the additional water during the latter part of the cooking process once the beans begin to absorb the liquid), or until the beans are tender and the sauce is rich and thick.

-Once the beans are tender, turn off the heat; add in the crisped and chopped bacon, the maple syrup and the bourbon, and stir to incorporate; finally, check your seasoning to make sure that there is enough salty/sweet flavor, and adjust if necessary; serve the beans warm alongside your favorite grilled meats, hot dogs or other favorite BBQ items.

*****

Storytelling has always been an art form with my grandpa. When I was young I would always try to be as near to him as possible to hear his stories as he played cards with the rest of the adults. Being a big fan of Reader’s Digest anecdotes and jokes, he always said that one day he would send in the story about the time I put him in his place: I was about six years old and quite a chatterbox, full of confidence and learning new words everyday. After listening to me blather on for a long period of time, he became slightly annoyed (because I was taking his story telling time away) and asked me if I knew what ‘verbal diarrhea’ was. I replied, “Yes Bob (I called him Bob!), but do you know what competition is?” Bwahahaha! I had no idea that it was the perfect response to his annoyance and he told that joke for years! I think even hubby heard it several times back when we were newly married.

Grandpa was a hard man, full of principle, quick to anger, and a drinker to boot. During these last years of greater age and failing health, he and his stories have become softer and more emotional.  He fondly reminisces about ‘this person’ or ‘that time’ and we sit there, listening patiently as we know there are not many more days that he will be in our lives. We will no longer be the younger generation, but those who are responsible for carrying on the story.

 

 

 

Honey Roasted Beets & Leek with Lentils & Rice

Here is one of the ‘healthy’ posts I recently talked about. I think that sometimes (or actually quite often) people equate ‘healthy’ with ‘tasteless’ and I’ll admit that I fall very nearly into this category. Maybe I don’t have enough confidence in my cooking ability to believe that a healthy dish I make doesn’t have to taste like cardboard? Maybe this attitude stems back to my farm childhood-meat-and-potatoes upbringing? I’m pretty sure it’s all psychological though, because I have made some pretty standout healthy dishes; including this one. It doesn’t look like much but the earthy-ness of the beets combined with the dill and feta cheese is perfect. In my opinion the fresh lemon and zest is absolutely essential for bringing the whole dish together.

Thursday night. 4 pm rolls around and I’m wondering what to make for dinner. Luckily I had made a stop at the Calgary Farmer’s Market earlier in the day and bought a huge 5 lb bag of beets. I also had some lovely leeks and so began the google search. I went straight to the Canadian Lentils website because I wanted a lentil based dish. They virtually have a recipe for every lentil dish that you can think of. When I searched the site for ‘Beets and Leeks’ this Honey Roasted Beets and Leeks with Lentils and Rice recipe popped up. Since it also included feta cheese I knew I had to try it because beets and feta cheese is one of my all time favourite combinations. I had a bit more time to cook the rice while the beets and leeks were roasting so I decided to cook a blend of wild and brown basmati rice instead of just having plain brown rice as the recipe suggests.beetbowl

I’ll admit that I read the recipe and had my doubts. It didn’t sound like much though it had flavours and ingredients that our whole family loves. I just wasn’t sure about serving this ‘salad type’ meal and how the family would react. There was some trepidation and my oldest son flat out refused a bowl. But to my daughter who has really turned her health around, it was love at first bite.

Honey Roasted Beets & Leek with Lentils & Rice (Canadian Lentils website)

Ingredients

1 Tbsp  olive oil

2 cups  small beets, diced

2 cups  leek, chopped

2 tsp  honey

garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup wild rice

1 cup  uncooked brown rice, rinsed

3 cups  chicken or vegetable stock

1½ cups  cooked or canned red or green lentils, drained and rinsed

1 Tbsp  fresh dill, chopped (reserve some for garnish)

1 Tbsp  lemon juice (and zest)

¼ cup  crumbled feta cheese (reserve some for garnish)

salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Method

  • PREHEAT the oven to 375°F.
  • TOSS the oil with the beets, leek, honey, and garlic. Season with salt and ground black pepper and spread onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Roast for 35-45 minutes or until tender and golden.
  • BRING the wild rice and 1 cup of water to boil in a medium pot. Boil for ten minutes; drain water then add the brown rice and the stock to the pot. Bring a boil. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid, and simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until the rice is tender.
  • TOSS the roasted vegetables with the prepared rice, lentils, fresh dill, lemon juice and zest, and feta. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  • GARNISH with feta and fresh dill.
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