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Archive for January, 2009

As we were all sick with the flu, we didn’t eat much. So now that we are all hopefully beginning to be better (whew!), what to do with all the food?

The strawberries I made into a strawberry jam, along with half an apple (apples are an excellent source of pectin). If using lemon juice as pectin, I add sugar by weight in a 2:3 ratio to the fruit (by weight). As this time I had the apple, I put sugar in a 1:3 ratio. When putting less than 1:1 ratio of sugar, the jam needs to be kept in the fridge.

The bananas were a bigger problem. I had six bananas that were at the very edge of usefulness. If there is only one or two, it is possible to peel them and freeze them in a bag for later use, but six? So I tried to make this recipe. To put it mildly, this was not a success.

This recipe was voted one of the top 100 recipes in recipezaar, and had loads of great reviews. I read some of them, and accordingly used a bundt pan and 5 bananas (I really can’t be bothered to mash the bananas and put them in a cup to measure 2 1/3 cups).

After 80 minutes (!) it still wasn’t cooked in the center, but was starting to seriously burn on the outside. I find undercooked banana bread frankly nauseating.

In a last ditch attempt to save something, I sliced the cake thin and returned it to the oven for 10 minutes. It was still not cooked. I baked it an additional 5 minutes. The result was very brown, and the outside was a little dry, but the slices came out surprisingly tasty. I’m using them for breakfast on the go.

I think that next time I’ll try making banana muffins, banana milkshake or a different recipe. Maybe it’s the altitude, or maybe my bananas are larger than average, but I haven’t had such results since my first cakes.

At least I managed to save something.:-|

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Quick Lunch

Today I made lunch for my mom, my son and myself in less than half an hour. The menu: Spiced chicken breast, orzo, and green peas.

A few words about orzo: I was quite surprised to discover that orzo isn’t well known all over the world. Also known as “Israeli couscous”, it’s tasty, versatile, and best of all unbelievably quick to prepare, making it a great side dish for quick main dishes such as chicken breast, steak, fish etc.

Basic Orzo

Ingredients (2 servings)
1 cup orzo
1 cup boiling water
vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oil in a non-stick pot (such as you would use for rice). Add orzo and mix until orzo is coated in oil. Add boiling water and salt. Mix. Lower fire to medium-low,  cover, and simmer until all the water is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

I usually fry some onion (regular or green) in the oil before adding the orzo and proceed as in the recipe. Other great additions: any frozen vegetable such as peas or peas and carrots; cubed bell peppers; cubed tomatoes. If using frozen vegetables make sure that they are almost cooked before adding the orzo as the orzo only cooks around 5 minutes – not enough for large frozen vegetables such as broccoli.

Spiced Chicken Breast

Ingredients for 2-3 servings

3-6 boneless chicken breasts, pounded
dash balsamic vinegar
1 tsp flour
1/2 cup water + 1 tbsp water
2-3 tablespoons of sweet paprika
2-3 tablespoons curry
oil for frying

Heat the oil in a non stick pan. Place chicken breast in pan, sprinkle half the spices and immediately turn over and sprinkle spices on other side as well. fry until chicken is nearly cooked (3-5 minutes) or until spices look as if they’re going to burn, whichever comes first (depends on chicken breast thickness). Add 1/2 cup water and vinegar, and mix spices in. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Mix flour and 1 tbsp water in a separate cup, and add to sauce, mixing well. Sauce should thicken very quickly into a gravy. Remove from heat.

Note: Instead of the water+ balsamic vinegar, you can use white wine.

Frozen Peas in the Microwave

Place peas in a microwave safe dish with a lid (I use pyrex). Add some soy sauce ( about 1-2 tbsp, depending on the amount of peas) and some water (about the same amount as the soy sauce). Place in the microwave on high for 2 minutes. Mix, taste and put back in microwave if necessary, 1 minute at a time. For amounts, refer to the microwave directions on your frozen peas package.

With a bit of planning and juggling, you can make all these at once, and you have a quick and very tasty meal.

Bon Appetit!

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All my family is sick with the flu. And my older boy wouldn’t eat. The only thing that he wanted was to “cook with mommy”. Well, why not?

Grilled Cheese in the Oven

Ingredients (for 2-3 servings)
4 slices of bread (I like whole wheat)
4 slices of yellow cheese
ketchup
dried oregano in a shaker
Optional: 4 tomato slices

Preheat oven to 180 C. You and toddler cover a baking pan with aluminium foil. Have the toddler place the bread slices on the covered baking pan. Holding the ketchup bottle together, “draw” a circle or squiggle with the ketchup on the bread (if he is older he can do this himself). Have the toddler place each slice of cheese on each slice of bread. If using tomato slices, have the toddler place the tomato slices on the cheese. Then give him the oregano shaker and have him shake oregano over each slice. If there’s too much, simply move from one to the other. Place baking pan in hot oven for 5 minutes.

Toddler helps return the ketchup and the cheese to the fridge, throw anything away, bring his plastic plate and a spoon and a fork (he won’t use them, but who cares) to the table, bring his cup, etc.

Cut up grilled cheese (for toddler) and eat! And don’t forget to praise toddler for “Making dinner for Mommy and Daddy” 😀 😀

Note: Toddler washes hands before cooking. He does not go near hot oven. He does not go near any knives. Enjoy!

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Chicken Stock Cubes

Yesterday I finished the chicken that was in the fridge. As I don’t really know how to carve, when I removed the white meat I didn’t serve with the bone. So I had a large amount of chicken bones that were never in someone’s plate. So I used them to make chicken stock cubes.
To do that put bones in a pot with any leftover sauce. I added fresh parsley, two handfuls ( about 10-12 stalks) and green onions (2-3. both the white part and the green). I cut the seasoning in large pieces – no need to work hard mincing these veggies, the cooking time is long.
You can add carrots or regular onions, or some celery sticks if you wish. No need to peel the carrot, no need to cut small.
Then you cover with water and let it boil until it is very much reduced and concentrated. I reduced to about 0.5 liter – exactly to fit in my ice cube tray.
Then you freeze the chicken stock in the ice cube tray, and when you want stock – 2-3 cubes, with or without water, and you’re done.
You can also reduce much less and freeze in 1-cup portions, but that takes up much more space in the freezer. Also, this way you can use it as seasoning and not necessarily as a liquid.
So you have chicken bouillon cubes at almost zero price and effort – because otherwise you would have just thrown those bones away, right? – and excellent quality.
Enjoy!

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Leftover Coleslaw?

I made coleslaw using a variation on this recipe because I had lots of cabbage and radishes. It came out OK, but then the weather turned cold and I simply didn’t feel like eating a cold salad. What to do?

At first I thought I would make cabbage soup. I had some home made veggie stock in the freezer, plus a few other vegetables, it would fit the weather… why not?

So I snipped some green onions into a pot with a bit of canola oil and sauteed them, added the leftover coleslaw and let it fry for a few minutes, stirring occasionally… and I found myself thinking: this smells like stir-fry. Hmm, if we add a bit of soy sauce (add about 2-3 tbsp of soy sauce) and taste (with a fork over the pot) it tastes great! The veggies basically marinated in the sauce for a day, and then the addition of the onion and soy sauce made it perfect.

I ate all the stir fry in one go. Yummy!

I wrote up the recipe in recipezaar: chinese cabbage stir fry.

Of course, this will work only with non-creamy coleslaw. Mayonnaise-based dressings aren’t very Chinese. In that case, you’ll have to go with the soup ;).

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I roasted a chicken in the oven, and added pineapple-kiwi jam to the sauce. The result was succulent and satisfying:

  • Preheat oven to 220 °C
  • Mix 1 tbsp mustard with dried tarragon and dried thyme
  • Rub chicken, especially under the skin
  • Place in pan, uncovered, and bake for 20 mins
  • Add white wine to about 1 cm height in pan, lower temperature to 180 °C, and bake another hour or until juices run clear
  • Remove from oven and let rest 10 mins before carving
  • Add 4-5 heaped tbsp of pineapple-kiwi jam to the sauce in the pan and mix
  • Serve chicken with the sauce and white rice or couscous
  • Note: if you make ahead chicken to remove the fat, add the jam to the sauce just before warming it, and mix well.

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Yesterday I did two food saver recipes: kiwi-pineapple jam and stewed veggies.

Kiwi- Pineapple Jam

My toddler loves kiwi, so I wasn’t worried that I had a lot, but suddenly the all got ripe together! By the time they were over ripe I still had four kiwis. I looked around the Internet a bit and changed things to fit what I had and came up with this recipe. I intend to use it on bread and as a sweet and sour sauce on chicken.

1 small can pinepple pieces in syrup
4 kiwis, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup-2/3 cup sugar
rind and juice from 1 small lemon ( my brother has a tree of small lemons)

Combine all ingredients in a pot . Bring to a boil. Continue simmering for 20-30 minutes, until fruit is soft. Taste and add sugar or lemon if needed. Simmer for 10 more minutes.
If jam is too syrupy for your taste, blend in a blender until smooth.
Place in clean jars with airtight lids. Turn jar over on its lid to cool.
When cooled, place jars in the fridge. Don’t forget to label!

Update: I didn’t add a lot of sugar because I prefered to keep it tart, with the result that it isn’t that good on bread – however as a sweet and sour sauce it’s awesome! It should also be great as a filling in cakes.

Stewed Veggies

This is a recipe of my mother in law.  I’m not sure of the spelling, but it sounds like gedunskesgemuse (German), which literally means vegetables cooked in their own juice. The original recipe calls for tomatoes, cucumbers (yes, cucumbers!) and red/yellow/orange bell peppers, all of which are cooked in a pot with some salt on low fire in their own juice (no added water).  The result is frozen in portions and can be used as a base in a number of dishes. This is excellent for the softening peppers, wrinkly cucumbers, and over-ripe tomatoes.
I was too late to save my cucumbers, so I used only our 6-7 bell peppers and 2 tomatoes. Because I didn’t have enough tomatoes relative to the peppers, after half an hour stewing I added some water.
When soft, freeze in portions ( I froze about 3- cups together, so that the portion would be enough for all my family. if you live alone, freeze in one-cup portions)

Uses:

This stew makes an excellent pasta sauce: Thaw in a pot. When thawed, add 150 ml sour cream and if still too liquid 1 tbsp of flour. mix and serve over pasta with grated Parmesan.
I have also used it as a veggie side dish, thawed and warmed in the microwave with added seasonings.
It’s also great over chicken breast: fry chicken breast in a bit of oil, 2-3 minutes on each side until cooked. pour stew over chicken and serve.
Thaw, add a cup of canned drained chickpeas (or cooked if you have them), add paprika cumin and turmeric and serve over couscous for a quick vegetarian meal.
And it can also be used on rice or couscous as is.

I’m off for some chicken with pineapple-kiwi jam!

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