Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fish Tacos

I have reclaimed Mondays for the living. Everyone hates a Monday - even if you don't have an actual Monday to hate, you have to start back to work after a break at some point. No one is immune from Monday... UNTIL NOW.

Actually it's pretty simple. I plan something fun for Mondays. Usually my friend Emily and I go out for a cocktail and catch up. Last night my sister had just returned from out of town so we had family dinner. And because she is always raving about how awesome fish tacos are, and because I had never even tried them let alone made them, I decided that was what was on the menu.

Now as far as a Monday-night dinner party goes, the menu is pretty do-able. There is a fair amount of chopping and slicing but there's not a whole lot of actual cooking. Even with the Mexican chocolate cake I added, the whole thing took less than an hour from start to finish. Not including eating, of course. I can't guarantee that your Monday night dinner guests won't be so enamoured of you that they won't stay until midnight!

Fish Tacos (serves 4 or 5)

1 lb of white flaky fish.*
1/4 c canola oil
1 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 c diced cilantro leaves
the juice of 1 lime

8 tortillas, flour or corn
sour cream or plain yoghurt
cilantro leaves
sliced green onions
sliced red onions
shaved red cabbage
sliced avocado
lime wedges
minced fresh hot peppers

1. In a baking dish, mix the lime juice, cumin, chili powder, oil, and 1/4 c cilantro leaves. Add the fish on top. Cover and refrigerate 20 minutes, flipping the fish over part way. If you have time to marinate it longer, feel free!

2. Meanwhile, do all your chopping. Put the toppings in little bowls on the table so your guests can top their own. Make sure you have a Simon to slice the avocado. Simons are avocado experts!
3. When everyone has a beer or a glass of wine, get that fish on the grill pan. Heat it up nice and hot, but not too hot - about medium-high - and grill for about 4 minutes a side or until it's cooked through and there are lovely grill marks.

4. While you're doing this, have your sister heat up the tortillas. Some people might use the conventional "damp towel in the oven" method, but we prefer to live on the wild side so she used the element on medium-low. We also got some lovely grill marks on the tortillas.

 5. And you're done! Pile your tacos high and enjoy! Or stay tuned for spicy chocolate cake.

"Mexican" Chocolate Cake

This is actually a very VERY easy cake. It is so easy that after you make it a few times you will ha ve it memorized. That easy. It's from the Moosewood cookbook and it is in fact VEGAN although no one will be able to tell. It is moist and fluffy and delicious, and very adaptable, as we shall see.

You need:

1.5 c flour
1/3 c cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1.5 tsp chili powder
1 Tbs cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup cold water
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons vinegar of some sort

1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl, having preheated your oven to 350ºF. I did this while the fish was marinating and before I sliced and diced my veggies.

2. Add all the wet ingredients EXCEPT the vinegar and mix.

3. Making sure you have a greased cake pan at the ready, quickly fold in the vinegar. Pour directly and immediately into the greased cake pan and stick it in the oven for 30 minutes.

BAM. Easiest cake ever. We served ours with caramel sauce from a jar (!!!) but vanilla ice cream etc would be lovely. If you double the vanilla and leave out the spices, you will have a plain but equally delicious normal chocolate cake.

*Hey! If you are choosing fish for this recipe, DON'T USE COD. They are almost gone. And while you're at it, take a look at this list and see if you can find something sustainable. Thanks! :)
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Beef Stew and Dumplings

It's cold. Well, today it's not, but it has been. And I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be cold again soon. Here, then, to stick to your ribs and keep you cozy, is my own very very favourite recipe for beef stew, with my mom's awesome dumpling recipe.

You need:

Beef stew meat, in cubes. I guess about a pound or so?
1 tbs oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large chopped onion
1 bottle of yummy stout. We like St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout. Do yourself a favour and pick up a six pack - that way you won't feel left out when the stew gets a bottle.
2 c beef stock, if needed.
2 carrots, cut into "coins"
a few potatoes, cut into chunks
a small turnip or two, peeled and in chunks
1 celery stalk, diced
2 bay leaves
1-2 c frozen peas, depending on how much you like peas.

As you can see, this is a fairly vague and therefore forgiving recipe. It really doesn't matter (within reason, of course) how much of everything you put in, or if you leave somethings out. It will still be a delicious combination of meat and vegetables.

First, brown the beef over high heat in the oil. Add the onions, garlic, and celery and cook until the onions are translucent.

Add the beer and deglaze the pan. Add half the beef stock, and simmer for about half an hour. Toss in the bay leaves, too. Then add the carrots, potatoes, and turnips and add enough beef stock to just cover everything.

Let this all simmer for another 30 minutes, until all the veg is tender. Add the frozen peas now.

At this point, you are ready to make your dumplings.

For the delicious fluffy dumplings, you need:

1 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs oil
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c (or a bit more) milk

Mix all the dry ingredients together, then add the milk and oil. Stir until just combined - no more, or you will have tough dumplings and those are no fun.

Drop by the tablespoonful to the boiling stew, then reduce the heat and cover. They'll be done in 12-15 minutes, and so will your stew! If, at this point, you find the stew too liquidy, you can thicken the gravy by adding a tablespoon of flour dissolved in some water, or some Veloutine or instant flour.

Serve with a bottle of the St Ambroise stout!

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Stop what you are doing right now and listen up: I HAVE PERFECTED MY SEEDY BREAD RECIPE. I know you all thought it was perfect before, but you didn't know that it could be made perfecter. Now you know!

The secret is buttermilk! This is officially my new favourite bread. It is just as soft as bought bread and sooo much tastier. And cheaper! And better for you! Buttermilk, contrary to what I thought until yesterday, is not fatty milk. It's milk with good bacteria in it! It tastes kind of like plain yoghurt. Who'd-a-thunk-it. Anyways, it makes a pretty delish loaf of bread. Apparently you can also use it in salad dressings.

So now that you have stopped what you were doing before, it's time to get out your flour, because you are making this bread right now. You will thank me.

You need:

5-6c all purpose flour
2 c Red River or Sunny Boy or equivalent cereal*
3 c buttermilk
4.5 tsp yeast
1/4 c sugar or honey or some combo of the two
1 Tbs salt
2/3 c water

Ok so the night before, mix up the buttermilk and the cereal and stick it in the fridge with plastic wrap over it.

Next morning, or afternoon, or whenever you happen to remember about it, take it out and warm it up in the microwave so it's baby-bottle temperature. While you're at it, get your 2/3 c water at about that temperature, too. Mix the sugar/honey with the water and add the yeast to it.

Put the cereal mush in a large bowl, unless you used a really large bowl to start, and start adding your flour a cup at a time. When you've added 2 cups, add the sugar/yeast mix and continue to add your flour until you can't mix it any more and it's time to knead.

Knead in the rest of the flour until you have a really soft elastic dough. It shouldn't be sticky, but it shouldn't be dry either. Err on the side of less flour - I used 5 cups.

Let the dough rise, covered, for 2 hours in a warm-ish place. Then shape it into two loaves and stick those in two greased loaf pans to rise again for another hour. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400ºF.

Bake them for 30 minutes, or until the bottoms sound hollow when you tap them and the tops are brown. Resist slicing open right away - make sure you wait until they have cooled!

* If you can't find these cereals, use a combo of whole flax seeds, wheat bran, and cracked wheat - that should do the trick. These cereals are both made up of a mix of flax, rye, and wheat so use your imaginations! Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Melting Shortbread

Hello blog! I had a lovely holiday! I made lots of cookies and ate lots of yummy things and I took photos, too. First up is shortbread. I have been trying to come close to my Nana's shortbread for a few years - it was magically melty and somehow she managed never to let it brown.

My mom got her hands on an old collection of recipes from the olden days. It is a thick wad of loose pages clipped together and well-thumbed by many ladies. It has a bunch of shortbread recipes, all with the names of the women who made them famous attached. I have been working my way through them each Christmas. This year, while I don't think I have exactly replicated Nana's recipe, I found one that I think I am happy with - it has a good balance of flakiness and firmness and I managed to bake them at a low enough temperature that none of them got the least bit brown. Also nobody in my family seemed to be able to stop eating them - I ended up making three batches in a week!

So here you go: the recipe.

You need:

3 c flour
1/2 c cornstarch
1 c icing sugar
2 c (1 pound) room-temperature butter.

1. Cream together the butter and the sugar. I used my (clean and scrubbed) hands to do this - you can use your hands for the whole recipe - fewer dishes and more likely to closely resemble the methods of Mrs. Periwinkle of 1915 Saskatoon, right?

2. Add the flour and cornstarch and mix until the mixture is crumbly and fluffy.

3. Press the dough into an ungreased, rimmed baking sheet. This recipe fills half a 18 by 13 inch jelly roll pan so you could do a double recipe or use a smaller pan, which I didn't have. Prick the dough deeply with a fork all over.

4. Bake for an hour and twenty minutes (about) at 270ºF - I put the timer on for 20 minutes at a time and checked them. Don't let them start to brown or turn golden around the edges!

5. Use a pizza cutter or a really sharp knife to slice the cookies into fingers and let cool. The serve them up! They were very popular with Santa this year. :)

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