My life in food.

In the last week I’ve come up with a few good eats that I wanted to share. I learned how to be resourceful from the cooks at work; they’re so good at recycling foods and making wonderful creations out of things that need to be used up. So it’s rubbed off. Here are a few of the things I’ve made:

Applesauce Coffee Cake. I had a jar of applesauce in my fridge forever. I don’t think it goes bad, and if it does it certainly takes a while. I bought it a long time ago when I was on my applesauce kick and I didn’t want to waste it, so I googled ways to use it up and I found a great little recipe online. The only thing I did differently was add an egg and some nutmeg, and instead of using white sugar I used brown (brown is so much better). It turned out so great – very moist and not too sweet at all. And very easy with very little prep time. Perfect.

That got me thinking… I’d like to experiment with fruit juice and make some cakes and cupcakes, etc., and sweeten them with a natural, homemade fruit juice instead of sugar and see how they turn out. I think they’d be good if they were made properly. I bought a lip scrub from LUSH not that long ago that tastes like candy (it tastes like the Snow Fairy line). It’s basically just flavoured sugar granules. And I thought it’d be cool to buy one for baking purposes, since I can’t very well use the one I use on my lips on food that people will be eating. Would probably be good on those fruit juice cupcakes 🙂

Then last night I had thawed some hamburger that I had intended on cooking earlier today, but I got lazy and didn’t end up doing anything with it until about midnight (I don’t go to bed very early, so I often have late night cooking sessions). I made burgers for me to live off of for the next few days. I kind of like throwing things together and not always going by a recipe, just to see how it turns out… so I took my lb of hamburger and mixed it with about 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs, one egg, a tsp (maybe a tbsp? – depends on how much flavour you want) of dark sesame oil, one chopped green onion, some chopped fresh cilantro, minced garlic, cracked black pepper and some roasted red pepper spice. I threw them in a pan in the oven on 350 for about 15 minutes and then turned it down to 300 for another 5 or 10 minutes. Voila – Asian-inspired hamburgers. They came out perfect. I tend to use too many breadcrumbs because I get all hung up on the gooeyness of the raw egg when you’re mixing it with your hands, and I probably could have made due with just 1/3 cup of the panko crumbs, but they’re still good. I use the PC whole wheat flatbread buns because I like them better than hamburger buns.

I came home with the intention of making as many home-cooked meals this month as I can, and so far I’ve done pretty well. The first dish I made was a recipe I saw on Lidia’s Italy. I believe it’s called Sausage alla Romana, but I couldn’t find the proper recipe by that name anywhere online, and then I stumbled upon this, which is what I was looking for. Again, very simple recipe with few ingredients and not complicated at all. It came out wonderful. She calls for using the large olives with the pits in them, and you have to smash them with a knife like you would with garlic to get the pits out (can be a bit of a pain in the ass, as the pits really like to stick to the flesh of the olive). I put it over penne and sprinkled parmesan on top. Anyway, it was pretty good.

I made homemade vegetable soup with a bunch of my fresh veggies, tomato juice and chicken stock. I don’t really need to say how that’s made, because you can find generic veggie soup recipes just about anywhere. When I was cutting up the vegetables though, I saved all the peels, trimmings and “wasteful” parts (plus the fennel trimmings from the dish I made the night before) and threw them in a pot of water with a smashed garlic clove and some whole peppercorns. I’ve never made stock before, but it’s pretty easy. Just take everything you wouldn’t eat and boil it. When the colour is right (I wait until it’s a nice medium to dark green), strain it and then season it as you wish. I managed to get two full containers out of it, so I froze them for future use. I think I’ll be doing that from now on every time I cut up veggies. I think if I was a cook I’d save work a lot of money because I really enjoy making as much from scratch as possible. It’s a great way to fill your day and keep you busy – plus food tastes better when you don’t cut corners. I’d never need to order stocks because I’d insist on making my own.

Last night I made chicken piccatta, which is a recipe my mom got from a friend. REALLY easy. It’s like a Mediterannean dish with lemons, white wine and capers. So incredible and brainless to prepare. I made it with grilled dill asparagus and wild rice.

I’ve also made Mulligatawny Soup – my favourite. I tried it once before, but it didn’t really turn out the same as the way one of our cooks makes it. So I tried it again the other night and it was pretty close to perfection. I should have added a bit more flour to thicken it up, and I also didn’t have any cayenne or bananas… but no big deal. It was still pretty amazing. It’s one of those soups that has intense flavour, but it’s very low in calories. I’m weird about putting raw meat in soups and letting it cook, so I cut it up and semi-cooked it in peanut oil first. I don’t cook it entirely – just enough to get the raw juices out of it, and then I slide them in to the soup to simmer. But that’s my own idiosyncracy haha.

As a snack I bought my favourite blue corn chips from the health food section at the Superstore. I like them because there’s almost no salt on them and I love the taste. I wanted to save half of the sour cream for the Mulligatawny Soup, and since I figured I probably wouldn’t use up the remainder of it all that quickly, I decided to make a chip dip. I put a package of onion soup mix (next time I’ll only use half though, because that’s a LOT of salt), one or two chopped green onions and I took all the fresh dill that was about to go bad and chopped it up and threw it in there. Dill is my favourite herb, and one of my favourite flavours of all time, so I put it all in there. Geez it was good!!

There are so many things I want to try. Some recipes that recently caught my eye were:

French Lentils with Walnuts and Goat Cheese (minus the goat cheese – yuck), courtesy of Laura Calder from French Food at Home
Wild Mushroom Risotto by the Barefoot Contessa
Black Bean, Corn and Tomato Salad by Giada de Laurentiis (I LOVE anything with corn and black beans in it)

Giada also made an awesome poached pear recipe, which I should print and use for a special occasion. I also need to get a deep fryer because I want to try making these famous onion blossoms I heard so much about  (which look amazing)… and I’d like to make a lot of things in the deep fryer, actually. (corn fritters, onion rings and breaded jalapeños!)

So some other recipes I plan on making before I go back to work… blackened halibut (I don’t normally like fish, but this is one fish recipe I go nuts for); jambalaya; sweet and sour soup; Tuscan chicken pot pie; chicken curry over jasmine rice; black beans and rice; pork and cabbage soup; Ikea meatballs; sausage and spinach pastries… wow, I better stop because there are actually a LOT of things I want to make and I know I can’t make them all.

That’s all. Cheers 🙂

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