Thursday, September 30, 2010

I love fall.

I love the sights.  I love the smells.  I love the holidays.  I love the food.

The other night, my husband and I ended up coming home at the exact same time, each hoping the other had been there first and had started cooking dinner.  Fail!

We checked the cupboards.  Bare except for onions and sweet potatoes.
We checked the fridge.  Empty.
We checked the freezer.  Sausages.  Score.

I thought about it for a couple minutes...and presto!  We had dinner.

I saw this recipe on Cityline a few years ago, and it is seriously one of the easiest, most delicious recipes I have ever made.  It's savory and sweet and it's a great way to get your family eating more sweet potato.

Hope you enjoy!

Spicy Sausage and Sticky Onion Gravy

2 medium sized baked sweet potatoes
3 large spicy sausages of your choice
1 large thinly sliced onion
4 heads of trimmed broccoli
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup beef broth
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp maple syrup
Salt and pepper to taste

Wrap sweet potatoes in aluminum foil and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until soft and tender.

In a cast iron skillet, pan fry sausages until they are a uniform golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes, turning them from time to time. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Using the same skillet, gently fry the thinly sliced onion adding a little butter, a splash of water and a tablespoon of maple syrup. When the onions are cooked to a golden brown, add the beef broth and simmer until reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the broccoli in boiling salted water. Strain, add a little butter and season with salt and pepper.
Scoop the sweet potato from the skin and place in the centre of two warm serving plates. Place one-and-half sausages on top of the potato on each plate and add the broccoli. Spoon over the onion gravy. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Makes 2 servings.

Recipe from here, photo from here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It's all Greek to me...

I find traditional "Canadian/North American" food boring.

It's not that I will turn down a turkey dinner...or that I will snub mac and cheese or apple pie, it's just when I crave food, I crave something more exciting.  Maybe it's that I'm a self-loathing Canadian, or maybe it's just because long before I traveled the world, I dreamed about traveling it with my taste buds and did.

During my undergrad, I lived in Ottawa.  When you come from where I do, Ottawa is about as different as Tokyo.  There are people that are...gasp...NOT from Canada all over the place.  And the restaurants...well, sure, if you've been to Ottawa, you've probably seen what's on offer in the By-ward Market (Gotta love pubs and cafes!) but if you've ever REALLY been to Ottawa, then you'll know that Bank and Somerset's hole in the wall Chinese, Japanese, Sri Lanken and Indian cuisine is where it's at!  (Ceylonta!!!!  Oh how I miss you and your veggie string hoppers!)

But the other night, I was a whole different kind of nostalgic.  I was flooded with the memories of a really random night in 2006 in Korea, of sitting in a Greek restaurant in the heart of Seoul's Itaewan district with friends from Canada, the USA, Korea and Australia.  We ate souvlaki, pita and the most delicious, creamy, flaming feta cheese I've ever had.  It was one of those fabulous nights that you know you will never forget.  It was the best Greek food I've ever had.  And with all of those lovely memories floating in my head, I got sad.

I miss those random nights...I miss the drunken soju haze and I miss the people we used to share those crazy nights with.

In their honour, we ate Greek.  You can too.

Easy Greek Pita Dinner

  • Cut boneless pork chops into bite size cubes (1 per person)
  • Put the pieces into a ziploc bag with a couple of table spoons of Kraft Greek with Feta salad dressing.  Let it sit over night (or do it in the morning and let it sit all day)
  • Wrap Greek style pocketless pitas in foil and place on a very low heat in the oven (200)
  • Sear the pork until cooked in a skillet.  Remove & place in a bowl.
  • Spray the skillet with olive oil and stir fry peppers and onions in whatever was left by the pork.  Add pork right at the end.
  • When the pitas are warm, remove from oven.  
  • Spread pitas with Tzatziki sauce, add pepper, onion, pork mixture.  
  • Add cut up tomatoes,olives or feta.  We didn't have any, but I'm sure it would be delish!
  • Serve folded on a plate alone or with garlic roasted potatoes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Yesterday's Chili...

I always make way too much food for dinner.

I know that there are starving children in Africa, but seriously people, is there anything better than leftovers for lunch?!

Since there are only two of us and our giant crock pot is big enough to feed a family of 4, I always have left overs, especially on chili nights.  We love chili, or at least we love my watered down "Mexican" version of chili, but eating it for a week solid because, once again, Stephanie made too much is just not ok ( has happened one too many times...oops.).

So in order to keep my hubby happy, I have come up with some creative ways to reuse left over chili.  Enjoy.

Mexican Lasagna
Left over Mexican chili
Small flour Tortilla shells (or large ones, depending on the size of your dish - use whatever will fit best!)
Grated cheese (whatever kind you and your family like best)
Salsa - fresh or jarred whatever works for you.

Spray a round Corelle baking dish with olive oil spray. I think ours is 6 or 8" could easily feed a family of 4.
Layer it with the following:

Salsa & Cheese

Mix up the layers however you like, and keep going until there is <1" left in the dish.  Make sure the top layer is chili (If you use a tortilla, it will burn.  Learned that one the hard way.)  Sprinkle grated cheese on top.  Bake at 350 for around 45 minutes or until the cheese is fully melted (and crispy if you like it like that!).  Maybe more or less depending on your oven.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

This is great to make and freeze.  Take it out the night before you want to cook it, leave it on the counter and by 5pm the next day it's ready to pop in the oven.  Easy!

Grilled Chili Tortillas
This is only for chili that you have thickened - if it's watery, it will be VERY messy!!

Reheated chili
10" Tortillas
Sour cream

Wrap whatever ingredients you like into a 10" tortilla wrap.  Wrap it up tightly on both ends so that none of the deliciousness can escape.  Using a panini press, George Forman grill, BBQ, grill pan or frying pan and a plate, heat one side, then the other leaving grill marks.  Warning:  Although this is delish, it's also a bit messy.  Be warned!

Hot Chili Dip
Put chili into a large ramekin.  Grate cheese over top.  Heat in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes, or until chili is fully heated.  Garnish with a dollop of sour cream, chives or green onions.  Serve with nachos, pita crisps or toasty cracker things.

That's a total crock!

People are excited about going back to school for so many reasons...

I like going back to school because it means it's crock pot season. (and, being a contract teacher, I get paid again.  But that's a whole other story.)

What's my fascination with the crock pot?  Growing up, my mum used her crock pot at least 3 times a week so I guess part of it is nostalgia - especially since, according to her, "Canada has two seasons.  BBQ and Crock Pot".  The other part is that, like everyone else in this world, I'm too busy to make a proper dinner every night.  Housewife of the year...I am not. But using my crock pot makes people think I am, which is almost as good.

To me, crock pots are meant for cold weather foods like stew and roasts and my favourite - chili which is exactly what I came home and whipped up at lunch.  Best part? It was done at 5 when my hubby had to go to work, and was still hot when I got home at 6.

Here's the recipe I created - I don't do kidney beans, though I'm sure they'd be fine to add.  It's been a crowd pleaser around here for the last few years!


Mexican Chili

Brown 2 lbs of ground beef, drain and rinse to remove as much fat as possible
1 can of lentils, drained & rinsed
1 can of black beans, drained & rinsed
1 can of mushrooms, drained & rinsed
1 can of peaches & cream (or sweet) corn, drained & rinsed
1 can of diced tomatoes (they actually have chili spiced tomatoes, they're good too)
2 packages of chili or taco seasoning (Old ElPaso makes a reduced salt version)
A hand full of fresh cilantro, finely chopped (if you have it, if not, leave it out)

Throw it all into a crock pot / slow cooker on low all day, or on high if you start it after lunch.

I like my chili to stick to my ribs.  I will make a thickener of corn starch and water mixed together (usually <1/2 will do it) to thicken the whole thing up.  Pour it in a little at a time and stir.  It will thicken pretty quick, so add it slowly so you don't get chili you can stand on.

Serve in a bowl garnished with shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream and a few nacho chips.  It's delish!

For ideas on how to use leftovers...check out "Yesterday's Chili..."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It's the end of the world as we know it...

I am obsessed with utopian/dystopian fiction - and if it's post apocolyptic, all the better.

I can't explain it...books like that scare the pants off me, and I like it.

My husband has learned to deal with the strange dreams and the inevitable elbows, knees and mindless chatter that follows any particularly scary book.  It's just another one of the quirks that makes me so special "special".

I made a list the other day of all of the books I've read in the last year or so that fit into this very specific niche genre...

I am clearly obsessed.

But recently, my obsession has made me question the world at large.

There is a new phenomenon emerging from modern writers - one where teen characters are placed in worlds on the brink of destruction; worlds where the teenage protagonists are placed in situations where, against the odds (often at the mercy of malevolent, authoritarian governments) they must fight to save their lives, and the lives of the people they love.  In the last few books I've read, this has been through blood sport - usually resulting in more than one gory, graphic death.  These books are violent, gruesome and utterly frightening - even more so when you remember, most characters are under 16 and the intended audiences are teenagers (and let's face it, pre-teens - that damn Twilight Saga was clearly not meant for an 11 year olds eyes...and a little too much like crack to boot.)

All that being said, the books I have read from this emerging genre are amazing.  They have complex plots, characters and language.  They make the reader question things in the book's world, but also their own, and I can honestly say for the most part, you have no idea what is going to happen next because just when you think you've read the most horrific thing you have ever read in your entire life, you read the next chapter and the author has found a new way to mind fuck you. It's all a little insane.

While reading these books, I keep thinking to myself:  I'm not sure which is scarier - that a 12 year old is going to read this book or that some adult created this elaborate, crazy-ass world and thought, "Geeze!  I know who should read this!  A 12 year old!"

Which leads me to the question of why?

Why are books about the end of society as we know it becoming so popular?  Why can teens relate to a girl who takes her sister's place in a state mandated game where 26 kids between the ages of 12 and 17 fight to the death à la Thunder Dome? (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire & Mocking Jay by Suzanne Collins) Or a 16 year old boy who is part of some elaborate state funded program to weed out the smartest of the smart in a maze filled with crazy robo-octopus-cat things that kill everything in their path and are kept out of the middle of the maze (where the 60 mice boys live) by 200' high walls made of concrete that open and close every day...until some girl who gets dropped on them marks the end of both the maze and the beginning of a whole new kind of hell. (The Maze Runner by James Dashner.)

Seriously - what the fuck is this world coming to?!

As a teacher, I am genuinely worried for the future of the human race.

As a reader, all I can say is...

It's the end of the world as we know it...and I feel fine.