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.