Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Souper Suppers

My friend and I run a cooking club for girls ages 8 to 13 years here in Mississauga.  We’ve had it going for nearly 5 1/2 years, and in the process have had the joy and privilege to work with and teach young girls to have a greater appreciation for the culinary efforts that they (and others like their moms) make in the kitchen.  Last month’s club had the theme “Souper Suppers” and we featured three kinds of soups — two from Allrecipes.com (This is a great website for recipes!) — that all the girls really liked.  I’ve been sending it by email to friends and gushing about it to others.  Here they are below for you to try out with the family, especially for those of you who are in the middle of winter now.  (Just spent half an hour shovelling outside.  My small consolation is that it was powdery snow — light and fluffy as opposed to wet and slushy.)

PS:  All photos are courtesy of my 14-year old daughter and her brand new “Christmas-gift-from-her-godfather” camera.

Delicious Ham and Potato Soup

3½ cups    Potatoes, peeled and diced
1/3 cup    Celery, diced
1/3 cup    Onion, finely chopped
¾ cup    Cooked ham, diced
3¼ cups    Water
2 Tbsp.    Chicken bouillon granules
½ tsp.     Salt, or to taste
1 tsp.    Ground white or black pepper
5 Tbsp.    Butter
5 Tbsp.     All purpose flour
2 cups    Milk

Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, ham and water in a stockpot. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the chicken bouillon, salt and pepper.  In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour with a fork, and cook, stirring constantly until thick, about 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk as not to allow lumps to form until all of the milk has been added. Continue stirring over medium-low heat until thick, 4 to 5 minutes.  Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot, and cook soup until heated through. Serve immediately.  Serves 8.

Debdoozie’s Blue Ribbon Chili

2 lbs.    Lean ground beef
½ piece    Onion, chopped
1 tsp.    Ground black pepper
½ tsp.    Garlic salt
2 ½ cups    Tomato sauce
1 (8 oz.) jar    Salsa
4 Tbsp.    Chili seasoning mix
1 (15 oz.) can    Light red kidney beans
1 (15 oz.) can    Dark red kidney beans

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the ground beef and the onion and saute for 10 minutes, or until meat is browned and onion is tender. Drain grease, if desired.  Add the ground black pepper, garlic salt, tomato sauce, salsa, chili seasoning mix and kidney beans. Mix well, reduce heat to low and simmer for at least an hour. (Serves 8.)

Really Easy Italian Wedding Soup

6 pieces    Mild Italian sausages, uncooked
1 piece    Onion, medium-size & chopped
2 pieces    Carrots, medium-size & chopped
2 pieces    Celery stalks, chopped
As needed    Olive oil
2 cups    Cooked chicken, chopped
10 cups    Chicken broth
2 cups    Spinach or escarole, sliced
To taste    Salt & pepper
½ cup    Orzo or other small pasta, uncooked

Form meatballs from the sausage meat and fry separately.  Set aside.  Sauté chopped vegetables in olive oil until soft.  Add chicken broth, spinach or escarole and pasta.  Heat to boiling.  Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes, reducing stock.  Add chopped cooked chicken and meatballs.  Serve immediately.


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Our home smells amazingly good right now. I finished baking these potato pies called pirojki, the recipe of which I got from the blog of Farida, a very personable young mother from Azerbaijan. I had my children kind of roaming around earlier, hoping for some of the pies. I let them each have a half since I did not want them to spoil their appetite for dinner.

The pastry dough came together quite easily and baked beautifully. Before putting them in the oven, I brushed each pie top with beaten eggyolk, according to the recipe. The finished product looks golden brown and smells oh-so-good!

I have to kick myself mentally, though. I was so thrilled to see the pirojki that I immediately made up my mind to take photos and post these on this blog. I got the camera out and turned it on…….only to discover that the battery was dead. Aaaarrrrggghh! Anyway, you will have to trust me on this for now: they are beautiful savoury pastries that have a light slightly bready crust and a flavourful potato filling. I would not mind having one or two for a snack.

If you haven’t baked anything lately, consider doing so for the sake of having extremely happy children milling around the kitchen, hoping against hope they can be allowed to taste the result of your culinary efforts. It does not have to be complicated. It doesn’t matter if it is a cake mix from a box. Just bake. Open the windows and let the lovely smells of home baking spill out into the neighborhood. Bring a smile to your children’s faces and help put a sparkle in your husband’s eye when he sees something sweet for dessert.

It’s amazing what a little home baking can do!

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A sense of gratitude and appreciation for other people’s work and help is so important. It is, unfortunately, not encouraged enough these days. It’s almost as if a lot of people go around with this attitude or belief that they deserve good things and only good things. And since they deserve it, they do not need to say thank you.

So when someone actually shows their appreciation for a service or help you’ve given, it almost startles you…..or at least makes you smile.

For dinner tonight, I cooked some burgers from the butcher in the oven. I fried up some eggs and set each one on a burger. This burger composition was completed with some brown gravy ladled all over it and served with oven-fried potatoes. It had been a long, busy day and truthfully, I did not feel like going through the whole exercise of getting all this food ready. But I had promised my boys this dish and I did not want to disappoint them.

Everyone was quite hungry and the first part of our meal was a bit on the quiet side. They seemed to enjoy the meal and I was gratified until……

My taste buds are taking a walk in paradise tonight!

That was child number 4 (son #3 who is officially 9 years and 359 days old) who said that with a big, goofy smile on his face and a smudge of gravy on his lips.

Ahhhhh! Talk about gratitude and appreciation! Gotta love that kid!

I was gratified before; I was supremely pleased and grateful then.

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Bacon the Beautiful

I am now — officially — a fan of Bonnie Stern. Every Saturday, in the Weekend edition of the National Post, she has a column (“Eating In”) where she showcases certain recipes. She always has interesting ones that never seem impossible to try out. This past Saturday’s column featured an all-time favourite — hands down — in our home: bacon!

Why the big deal? Well, it seems to me that bacon, quite unfortunately, gets a bad rap in the healthy foods department because of the fact that it’s a pork product. And if you do have health issues that strictly limit your intake of fat, probably best to steer clear of this meat. But if you’re not going to be eating it at every meal, every single day — why not have some? Our family loves bacon! And we don’t even get the kind you buy in the grocery. We get our bacon from the butcher shop because the slices are thicker and have less fat. We have it on Sundays for our big family brunch. I use it to add flavour to certain dishes, especially when I cook cabbage. It provides this great flavour, especially when browned to a nice crisp that adds crunch and texture to any dish.

So again, what’s the big deal with bacon and Bonnie Stern? Her column featured a recipe of baked bacon (just cooking bacon using the oven — which I already do — instead of frying it in a skillet) as well as two other recipes that use bacon: baked beans with bacon and spaghetti alla carbonara. These are not the kind of dishes you want to eat every single day, at every meal. These are the kind of dishes you cook every now and then, and when you do people smile. Your family is happy and the house smells amazing. Even the dog (if you have one) is a happy little member of the family. These are dishes that encourage you to relax and just enjoy the meal and the company. You can’t help but smile.

Bacon is great, not as an everyday-every meal kind of food. It is a Sunday brunch kind of food that goes so well with those light, fluffy scrambled eggs cooked in a bit of butter. (Yes, I mean real butter and real eggs.) You appreciate it more for the fact that you do not have it all the time. It is special. It is rich, and so you shouldn’t have it everyday. You shouldn’t have too much of it or you could get sick. Every now and then, once in a while, it is good to have and be happy about having it.

Chocolate, butter, good wine — there are so many things that are good in moderation because they can add flavour and a certain richness to our life if used and appreciated in the right way. It’s a good thing to be able to exercise restraint in these things that are better taken in small, manageable doses. And bacon, every now and then, is a beautiful food to eat.

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Dough Therapy

This afternoon, I engaged in some dough therapy. There is something very comforting and relaxing about handling dough. Yes! The very act of cutting in the cold bits of butter into the flour and salt is an exercise in stress release. Then you slowly sprinkle in the cold water and bring everything together into a ball….and voila! You’ve got dough to build on for a dish that can fill your family up. Beautiful!

I have this great passion for cooking, you see. For a lot of people, it is a chore and nothing more. For others, it is something that approaches an obsession that can only take place with everything perfectly in place — a bit of a snooty attitude, if you want. I belong to neither group. Cooking is not something I resent having to do. But it isn’t something I need to be extremely finicky with. If I do not have the specified ingredients or tools, I will improvise. Creativity is the catch-word here! Ultimately, cooking is a means for me to provide my family (and others, on occasion) with sustenance that not only tastes good but also looks good. If you’re going to spend any amount of time doing something, it is worth doing well.tourtiere.jpg

The work and art of cooking has afforded my family to come together and share in the repast prepared in our home kitchen. The smells invite interest; the sights tempt the palate. The shared meal becomes an experience that nourishes the body and — many times — the heart and soul.

Back to my dough therapy this afternoon. I tried out this recipe for tourtiere, a shallow meat pie and French Canadian specialty. I got the recipe from one of Bonnie Stern’s recent columns in the National Post’s weekend edition. The warmth from the oven has started to fill the kitchen and spill out into the living room area, where the children are busily playing a game of Monopoly. In a while, one or two (or more) of them will come by to ask what it is I am baking. The inevitable smells that go with the baking or cooking of anything will slowly infuse the air. It is a small delight that makes me happy.monopoly-game.jpg

When you love what you’re doing, it is said to be a passion. But what about when you are doing something you are passionate about for those whom you love? You do your best. You apply yourself totally. After all, you are doing what you do for those who have a place in your heart. Your actions are transformed. They become acts of love.

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