Monday, February 13, 2012

Spanakopita Triangles

These are a great appetizer or main course, that can be easily made into batch cooking by flash freezing uncooked triangles for another day! This recipe uses ricotta, feta and frozen spinach wrapped in flaky phyllo dough (found in the frozen section of the grocery store near frozen berries/cool whip).

Phyllo dough needs to be defrosted before use. Once defrosted, unroll sheets - carefully. Dampen a clean kitchen towel and lie over the phyllo sheets to keep moist. Cut the phyllo sheets into 4 long strips  for appetizer size or 2 long sheets for main course size.

I adapted this recipe from What's Cookin' Chicago.

1 small onion, chopped
10 ounces frozen chopped spinach. thawed and squeezed dry
4 to 6 ounces domestic feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup cottage cheese
1 egg
1 pound of phyllo dough

1. Preheat oven to 375F
2. Cook onions until tanslucent. Mix together cheeses, spinach, egg and cooked onions.
3. Take two sheets of phyllo dough and brush with melted butter or olive oil
4. Place a teaspoon of mixture in top corner of sheet.
5. Fold phylo dough into triangles.
6. Flash Freeze or bake for 10 minutes on each side (until golden brown and flaky!)

If you are going to flash freeze them, please make sure that you defrost the spanakopita triangles before you bake them again later!!

Freezer Meatballs

Freezer Meatballs (adapted from
3 eggs
1 small onion, chopped (or half a large one)
1 1/3 C. bread crumbs (or cooked brown rice)
2 1/4 tsp. salt (I omit this, and use more spices)
1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. Italian herb blend (or spices of your choosing!)
1/4 tsp. pepper
3 lbs. ground beef

Preheat oven to 400F. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the next six ingredients and mix well. Finally, add the beef and mix well. Shape the meatballs into one inch balls (should make approximate 100 meatballs). Place in single layers on ungreased 1-inch deep baking pans and bake at 400F for 10 minutes, until done. FLASH FREEZE!!

Superbowl Sweet and Sour Meatballs

I made this recipe for a superbowl potluck and it was a huge hit!! It's also a great weekday meal, made easy with freezer meatballs (made in a big batch on a weekend!!)

Sweet and Sour Sauce for Meatballs (adapted from Lana's)

1 (20 ounce) can pineapple chunks, drained with juice reserved
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large carrot, diced
1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Approximately 30 meatballs, defrosted!

1. Mix enough water with the reserved pineapple juice to make 1 cup. In a large pot over medium heat, combine the juice mixture, 1/3 cup water, vinegar, soy sauce, and brown sugar. Stir in cornstarch, and ginger and until smooth. Cover and cook until thickened.
2. Stir pineapple chunks, carrot, green pepper and meatballs into the sauce. Gently stir to coat the meatballs with the sauce. Simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, or until meatballs are thoroughly cooked

Serve over rice!

They Joy of Dried Beans

Dried Beans involve a little more planning than canned beans, but the savings and results are well with the extra planning time. Dried beans are cheaper, easier to store, and dont have any preservatives or scuzzy water to rinse off of them. Some of my favourite and newly discovered recipes using dried beans!

15 Bean Chili

1 Cup Bob's Red Mill 15 Bean (prepared – see Preparing Dried Beans)

1/2 can of hot enchillada sauce

3 chopped tomatoes (frozen from the end of the summer)

1 jar of salsa (2 cup jar - canned from summer)

1. Simmer all ingredients together until some of the liquid is evaporated and chili consistency.

2. Serve as is, over oven fries, mashed potatoes or rice!

Roasted Chickpeas
These chickpeas are the ultimate snack food. They can be flavoured any way you want and satisfy that crunchy craving like a chip. But with a TON of fibre, protein and iron.

Preheat oven to 450F
Place (prepared) chickpeas on a baking sheet and dry with a clean dish towel
Toss chickpeas in olive oil and spices of your choosing
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until brown and crispy. Stir the chickpeas around halfway through to ensure even cooking. Decrease cooking time if baking right after boiling. Keep a close eye on the chickpeas, especially in the last 5-10 minutes

Chana Masala (Curried Chickpeas)
One of my favourite kitchen tools is my slow cooker. It came in very handy for making these curried chickpeas. I used Shan's Chana Masala Mix to make these chickpeas and added some of my own madras curry and garam masala at the end of cooking.
I folllowed the directions on the package, however I used the starchy water from boiling the chickpeas to cover the prepared chickpeas in the slow cooker and let it simmer away fro 10 hours. I ended up with a warm spicy gravy and soft chickpeas. Which is delicious with warm naan or rice.

Refried Beans
Another great use for the slow cooker and dried beans is refried beans. This recipe is much healthier and free of preservatives than canned beans, or canned refried beans.

1 onion, peeled and halved
3 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
5 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin, optional
9 cups water

Place the onion, rinsed beans, jalapeno, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin into a slow cooker.
Pour in the water and stir to combine.
Cook on High for 8 hours, adding more water as needed. 
Once the beans have cooked, strain them, and reserve the liquid.
Mash the beans with a potato masher, adding the reserved water as needed to attain desired consistency.             

Two important techniques: Flash Freezing and Cooking Dried Beans

It looks like I need to play catch up!! I haven't posted lately, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been cooking up a storm.

In the past few weeks I have finished all my canned tomato sauce and the last of the farmer's market onions *tear*. That just means I am looking even more forward to summer coming!!

But in good news I have found the joy in dried beans!! Not only are they cheaper and with less preservatives, but they are also easier to store in my limited space!!

How to cook dried beans
1. Rinse beans and remove any damaged beans.
2. Place dried beans in a bowl of water over night. Beans will expand to about 2 1/2 times their dried measure size, so ensure that there is enough water in the bowl to cover the beans even after they expand
3. Simmer beans in a large pot of water for approximately 1 hour, make sure the water level in the pot is always over the beans., also skim any foam off the top (especially with chichpeas)
4. Drain and rinse beans. Never cook beans after you boil them in the same water they were boiling in.
At this point the beans are ready to be used for any recipe you would used canned beans

Flash Freezing
The most important method to know for any batch cooking or freezer cooking. This process will help you freeze each item individully so that you can defrost only the amount you need for each recipe.
1 Cook the items as directed. Remove from the oven on baking sheets. When the items and baking sheets have cooled, place them baking sheet and all into the freezer. Ensure that none of the items are touching when they go into the freezer so that they freeze individually. Leave them in the freezer for approximately 1 hour.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

OAMC..make that OAWC

OAMC - Once a Month Cooking is quite the endeavour, so I have embarked on what I am calling Once a Week Cooking.
Using my fabulous little chest freezer, my bulk meat purchases from JW Foods and local produce from the last few weeks of local markets, and now from my Saturday morning organic market (at Waldorf School) I have been able to piece together a variety of easy and healthy dishes.

The past few weeks have included (recipes to follow):
- Freezer Meatballs - turned into sweet and sour meatballs with Pineapple
- Whole wheat pancakes with blueberries - doubled and frozen
- Sheppard's Pie - with frozen corn and peppers from earlier in the season, local garlic and onions
- Potato Gratin - a definite learning experience, i learned that the potatoes need to be cut much thinner than I did!
- Scalloped Sweet and White potatoes
- Sweet potato squash
- Pan Seared Steak tacos

- 3lbs of ground beef
- 3 eggs
- 1 small onion chopped
- 1 cup of bread crumbs
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- spices to taste (ie salt, pepper, italian blend, crushed peppers, etc)

Preheat oven to 400F.
Mix all ingredients until well combined.
Using a small ice cream scoop or 1tbsp measuring spoon shape meatballs and place on lined cookie sheet.
Cook for 10 minutes until meatballs are browned
Remove meatballs from oven and let cool. When cooled to the touch place meatballs (cookie sheet and all) into the freezer for 1 hour.
After 1 hour place frozen meatballs into a resealable bag and intothe freezer.
The meatballs will now be individually frozen for easy use.

Approx 20 Freezer Meatballs (thawed in fridge for 24 hours)
1 (20 ounce) can pineapple chunks, drained with juice reserved
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large carrot, diced
1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Mix enough water with the reserved pineapple juice to make 1 cup.
In a large pot over medium heat, combine the juice mixture, water, vinegar, soy sauce, and brown sugar.
Stir in cornstarch, ginger and seasoning salt, until smooth.
Cover and cook until thickened
Stir pineapple chunks, carrot, green pepper and meatballs into the sauce.
Gently stir to coat the meatballs with the sauce.
Simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes

WHOLE WHEAT PANCAKES (this recipe makes approx 20 pancakes)
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tbsp baking powder
2 eggs (well beaten)
2 cups milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup of blueberries (other berries, choc chips, etc)

Stir together flour and baking powder
Add eggs, milk and oil - stir gently as to not overwork the batter
Cook on preheated pan until bubbles start to form and edges start to look dry (whole wheat pancakes dont bubble up like other pancakes)


1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 onion chopped
1-2 cups vegetables - peppers, corn, peas
1/2 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt, pepper, other seasonings of choice
1 1/2 - 2 lbs potatoes (3 big ones)
2 tablespoons butter (1 stick)
2 cups of mile

Peel and quarter potatoes, boil in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes).
Sauté onions iuntil tender over medium heat (10 mins). If you are adding vegetables, add them according to cooking time. Put any carrots in with the onions. Add corn or peas either at the end of the cooking of the onions, or after the meat has initially cooked
Add ground beef and sauté until no longer pink. Add salt and pepper. Add worcesterchire sauce. Add half a cup of beef broth and cook, uncovered, over low heat for 10 minutes, adding more beef broth as necessary to keep moist.
Mash potatoes in bowl with butter and mile, season to taste.
Place beef and vegetablesin baking dish. Distribute mashed potatoes on top. Rough up with a fork so that there are peaks that will brown nicely. You can use the fork to make some designs in the potatoes as well.

4 whole Russet Potatoes, Scrubbed Clean
2 Tablespoons Butter, Softened
1-1/2 cup Heavy Cream (i used all milk - sauce didnt thicken properly)
1/2 cup Whole Milk
2 Tablespoons Flour
4 cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
1 teaspoon Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste
1 cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Freshly Grated
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Grease bottom of a baking dish.
Slice potatoes, then cut slices into fourths (make sure to slice thinly - to make sure cooks properly).
In a separate bowl, whisk together cream, milk, flour, minced garlic, salt, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
Place 1/3 of the potatoes in the bottom of the baking dish. Pour 1/3 of the cream mixture over the potatoes.
Repeat this two more times, ending with the cream mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are golden brown and really bubbling. Add grated cheese to the top of the potatoes and bake for 3 to 5 more minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.
Allow to stand for a few minutes before serving

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What a weekend!!

On Saturday, thanks to Kijiji and WagJag I scored enough frozen meats to fill my new mini chest freezer. This haul included: 24x6oz Hamburgers (for $22), 10lbs of 8oz AAA Top Sirloin Steaks (for $71), 3kg of All Beef Hot Dogs (for $16) and 4kg of free range chicken breast (for $47) all from JW Foods in Scarborough. Met one of the owners (Bill) and he was very excited about what is in store for the revamp of JW foods. He also was very generous and gave me free packages of chicken souvlaki and Greek sausages, both of which they make "the way their dad taught them". Check them out for all your meet needs - Brimley, just north of the 401.

Then, after leaving there I raced up to Michaels at Downsview to meet the one and only 'Ace of Cakes' Chef Duff Goldman! What a genuinely nice guy!!

After meeting Duff I came home with my autograph and new Charm City apron, and went down to my new pantry to see what the situation was. I noticed that 2 - what I thought were squashes - were looking like they needed to be eaten soon. So that was the next on the list of things to do. The first one - I though was spaghetti squash - oval, yellow....-but once I cut into it it smells, looks, tastes more like honey dew melon. Who knew honey dew melon had an oval shape and yellow rind!
The second one was one of my weird and wonderful purchases from the market last week. The farmer called it a sweet potato squash. Whatever it was it was DELISH! I roasted it flesh up with butter and maple syrup - like an acorn squash, as the farmer suggested!

After that I made 60 meatballs - some for dinner and some for the freezer. The dinner meatballs became Sweet and Sour Meatballs (with pineapple and peppers).

With such and eventful Saturday I was ready for a relaxed Sunday, I started at Highland Farms to pick up a few staples - dried beans, ice cream and milk - they also had Ontario Field Tomatoes on for 99c/kg. So of course, with the popularity of my last batch of salsa I had to capitalize on the last of the tomato crops - I bought 6kg (13lbs = about 7qts). My lazy Sunday resulted in tomato salsa canning of 7 pint jars, and once again salsa juice that is currently flavouring the pot roast in the slow cooker.

For dinner was steak fajitas with sizzling peppers and onions, of course with home made taco sauce!

I'm starting to learn more and more about this Once A Month Cooking - I may try once a week instead!