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!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Canning, Soup and a Happy Thanksgiving!

After another great farmers market trip on this beautiful Thanksgiving weekend, one of the farmers sadly informed me that this is probably the last week of this years peaches. Which means I bought two large baskets to ensure that we could have juicy and sweet peaches throughout the winter. I also picked up some LARGE tomatoes to turn into jars of diced tomatoes for use when the salsa or tomato sauce runs out.

My canning stock pile is starting to resemble something out of the extreme couponing show! We also purchased a small chest freezer and hope to start to fill that as well - maybe some peppers? Frozen veggies or leftovers? The possibilities are endless!!

With a bunch of cooked and mashed acorn and butternut squash it was time to make soup. I found a terrific recipe from Mennonite Girls Can Cook, thanks ladies! It was delicious!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fall at the market, with a side of Chef Lynn Crawford

Today I stopped by the East Lynn Market to stock up on some fruit and veggies for the week. Chef Lynn Crawford was there handing out samples of pulled pork sandwiches with apple and onions.

I picked up lots of onions, potatoes (and fingerlings), peppers, maple syrup and more peaches for canning. I also got 2 sugar pumpkins which I roasted to make into fudge, muffins and breads. Hopefully this means I wont have to buy canned pumpkin! Fingers Crossed!!

Its officially Fall....

Well with 5 degree temperatures, shorter and darker days, and winter vegetables coming to the markets I have to admit that it is becomming Fall. Also this weekend is Thanksgiving, which means Turkey, squash, potatoes and of course Cranberry Sauce.

So why not try canning cranberries? Super easy and theres definitely enough for gifts and to last until Christmas!

2 cups orange juice
2 cups water (or port)
4 cups sugar
16 cups (1.6kg) whole fresh cranberries
1/2 tsp of one or more of the following: nutmeg, all spice, cinnamon, cardamom
Zest of an orange

1. In a stockpot combine orange juice, water (or port), sugar and bring to a boil for 5 minutes stirring constantly
2. Add cranberries and spices, then return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until berries begin to burst.
3. Remove from heat and add orange zest
4. Fill jars, wipe rims, cover with boiled lids and sanitized rings
5. Process for 15-20 minutes in a hotw ater canner

I'm looking forward to having this with our Turkey on Monday

No more tomatoes! How about beans?

After processing about 2 and a half bushels ( over 130 lbs) of tomatoes in a few weeks, I was ready for a change. The green and yellow beans in the market looked so good and tasted almost like candy that I found a recipe for Three Bean Salad, and because they looked so good I doubled the recipe and made 10 cups instead of 5.

Ingredients (doubled - makes 10 cups)
3 cups yellow beans
3 cups green beans
1 cup vinegar (5% acidity)
1/2 cup lemon juice
1.5 cups sugar
2.5 cups water
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp salt for canning
2 cupscanned garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)
2 medium onions thinly sliced
3 stalks celery thinly sliced
1 medium green pepper diced

1. Cut and blanch beans for 3 minutes in boiling water, then transfer to a cold water bath
2. Combine vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, and water in a stainless steel or enamel stockpot and bring to a boil
3. Remove from heat. Add oil and salt and mix well. Add beans, celery, onions and green pepper. Bring to a simmer
4. Turn off and let cool to room temperature
5. Marinate for 12-24 hours in refrigerator
6. Return to a boil
7. Fill jars, wipe rims, cover with boiled lids and sterilized rings.
8. Process for 20 minutes in a hot water canning bath

More tomatoes than I bargained for...

I went to a different market than I had bought my last half-bushel of tomatoes, because it was more convenient in my week. I was looking for another half bushelf of tomatoes to make Taco Sauce. Unfortunately they were only selling bushels (53lbs) for $25 and pecks (1/4 of a bushel) for $11, and they were not willing to only sell me half the bushel for half the cost of their bushels. So my options were buy two pecks which would equal about half a bushel for $22 or to buy the whole bushel for $25. So I decided that the whole bushel was the best deal, but I ended up with twice as many tomatoes than I wanted.

PLAN B (for all 53lbs) - became taco sauce, bruschetta and 4 cups of diced tomatoes

Taco Sauce (about 15 cups)
20lbs of tomatoes (peeled, cored and finely chopped)
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
2.5 cups choppped onions
2 jalapeno peppers (seeded and chopped)
2 long green chilis (seeded and chopped) - I couldnt find these so I added 2 more jalapenos
1.5 cups vinegar (5% acidity)
1 Tbsp salt for canning
1.5 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp cumin

Add all ingredients to stock pot and simmer (stirring occasionally) for about an hour, or until it thickens. Puree in a blender or with an imersion blender

This sauce is delicious to add to ground beef or diced chicken when making tacos or enchilladas. Its like a pureed salsa

I doubled the recipe to use more tomatoes! Below is the recipe without doubling the ingredients.

5 lbs tomatoes (halved)
6 carlic cloves minced
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes (dried, not in oil)
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp dried basil
1 Tbsp salt for canning
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup red wine

1. Roast tomatoes and garlic in a single layer on a baking sheet under the broiler for 10-12 minutes
2. Let tomatoes cool and then remove the skins and seeds, then chop
3. Reconstitute the sundried tomatoes by boiling them in hot water for 5 minutes, drain and mince
4. Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes
5. Fill jars, wipe rims, top with boiled lids and cleaned rings
6. Process for 20 minutes in a hot water canner

Both of these went really well, although processing 53lbs of tomatoes is ALOT! I would recommend wearing gloves to avoid the sting of the tomato juice

Canning Part 2 - Solo Mission

After the success and fun of the first canning I decided (with encouragement) that I could handle it on my own. I stopped at Canadian Tire and purchased a Beginners Canning Box and a whole whack of jars!

On my next trip to the market I purchased 2 3L baskets of peaches and a half bushel of tomatoes, with some onions and garlic.

Canned Peaches
I would recommend that everyone do peaches, they are super easy and taste amazing! Way better than store bought tin peaches. You can decide how sweet/thick you want the syrup to be. I wanted mine to be light so I mixed up 3 cups of boiling water with 1 cup of sugar (you can also use maple syrup or honey).

The best way to process and can the peaches is to do one peach at a time. Blanch the peaches (same as the tomatoes - boiling water to cold water) then remove the peel from the peaches. Cut the peaches into quarters and place into jars, fill remaining space in jars with the hot sugar/water syrup. If you dont cut and cover them right away you risk them turning brown. Make sure that the syrup is surrounding the peaches and that there are no air bubbles. Then cover with lids and secure rings. Process in hot water canning bath for 20 minutes.

Tomato Sauce (Pasta Sauce)
20lbs of tomatoes (about half a bushel) - blanched, skins and seeds removed, chopped
2 onions, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp salt for canning
2 Tbsp pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Unfortunately you cant add garlic or fresh basil, as it will alter the acidity levels and make the product unsafe. However you can add these when you warm the sauces before you use them.

1. Soften the onions (NO OIL, add a bit of water if needed) in the stock pot.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients into the stock pot and simmer
3. If you want a smoother sauce you can puree it with an immersion blender
4. Let simmer for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent burning
5. Fill jars, add boiled lids and sanitized rings. Process in a hot water canner for 20 minutes

Another excellent canning mission with 100% PING! I think I'm getting the hang of this canning thing.

The Summer of Canning - First Try!

After two years of farmers market shopping through the summer and fall, and then trying to find local produce through the grocery stores through the freezing winters of Toronto, I decided that it was time to try canning on for size.
Thanks to my lovely friend living back home, beside her old dairy farm, she and her family had an abundance of tomatoes grown in her own backyard. As well as lovely farmers markets near her house from the neighbouring farms. She invited me up for a visit and my first ever canning experience!

After all the sanitizing of equipment, jars, lids and rings - the jars ended up in the oven at 200 degrees to stay nice and toasty!

We started with Salsa with tomatoes from her garden, some peppers from my garden and the rest of the ingredients sourced either at farmers markets or from local produce at the grocery store.

Salsa Recipe
5 lbs tomatoes (~15 medium tomatoes)
4 mild green chilies or 1 can green chillies (drained)
2 – 6 hot chillies (fresh or dried)
1.5 cups chopped Spanish onions
1.5 cups chopped gr. Pepper
1 cup chopped red pepper
3 cloves garlic
1 can tomato paste (5.5 oz or 156ml)
1 cup white vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp pickling salt
2 tsp paprika
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Start processing tomatoes by blanching them.
    • Wash the tomatoes. 
    • Cut an X in the base of the tomato and remove the stem base. 
    • Drop them 3 or 4 at a time (depending on size of tomatoes, dont crowd the pot) into the boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the skins start to fall off but the flesh is still firm
    • Remove the tomatoes from boiling water and quickly submerge them into ice water to cool.
    • Once the tomatoes are cool gently remove the skins, cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Chop the flesh of the tomatoes and place them in your COOL pot.
    • Continue until you have processed all your tomatoes
  2. Chop all other ingredients and mix into the tomatoes
  3. Simmer for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally so the bottom doesnt burn
  4. Remove from the heat when it reaches the consistency you want
  5. Start filling your hot jars, wipe rims, top with new lids (boiled for at least 5 mins) and clean rings
  6. Process the jars in your hot water canning pot for 20mins
Learning Experiences
* We didnt seed our tomatoes, but regretted it later. Although we ended up with what we called 'salsa juice' which was the pint of extra liquid that we skimmed off the top of the salsa so it would thicken faster. It ended up being a great braising liquid for a roast, and then a great stew base!

** We couldnt find any so chose some small cherry hots

We had 100% success with our seals - which is what I was the most concerned about. PING!!
The salsa is delish! And just spicy enough!

Spicy Red Pepper Jelly (recipe from epicurious)

We doubled this recipe so that we would both have 5 jars each. The flavour is delicious, however it did not become jelly as we had hoped. I'm looking forward to pouring it over baked brie anyway!

Although a LONG day of washing, chopping, canning and PINGs. We ended up with 10.5 jars of red pepper jelly and 14 jars of salsa. After this I'm hooked!