Category Archives: Lessons learned

Improvise, a battle & an appliance obituary.


Well that didn’t go according to plan, at all. 

Everyday coming up with something for dinner can sometimes be a struggle, other days a battle to the death and there are times the heavens open up & produce a miracle where everything just falls together in one great stroke of genius. The latter occurs too few whilst  the battle royale occurs almost daily. Today was definately one of those days, I can still feel my frustration & despair ebbing under the surface of my skin, my lips are pursed into a thin line, today dinner won by a knockout  & I didn’t even see it coming. Dinner was a total douchebag, throwing cheap shots, followed by a brutal sucker punch.

In reality I didn’t pay attention, I made assumptions and had too much faith in what I thought I had on hand. Well it should have been an easy win, it was chicken after all & I famously write about chicken far too often. Piece of cake, or so I thought. I planned on a quick, easy & delicious jammy jam chicken. I went to the store, picked up the meat & came home. Imagine my disappointment when I rudely discovered I had no apricot jam, which was a vital ingredient, and then no Catalina dressing. This was the moment I realized I inadvertently stepped into a fight, I cursed, cursed some more & grabbed a handful of cookbooks I knew somewhere inside one of them I had to have enough of something to make a dinner delicious enough that even the pickiest of eaters would  slop it down. Page after page was turned, all the while muttering about the *&%$ing chicken, how the &%$*% was I going to cook the -&%$ing chicken!! A glimmer of hope occurred when I happened upon a homemade honey garlic sauce for wings but I knew it would work for the cuts I had picked up earlier.

Thinking I was on my way to a victory I bounced around my kitchen gathering & adding ingredients to the blender where once I whizz it around masterfully pulverizing the ingredients into a delicious sauce. Until the *&&%$ing blender decided that it was going to $%&* the bed. I was outwitted by a blender, try as I might I could not get my trusty friend to whiz even just a little bit. Instead I was given the weakest death cry I have ever heard from a kitchen appliance; the bastard.

Like a certified wuss & kitchen half wit, I called my S.O. to tell my tale of woe, curse the chicken some more, & discuss the blenders obituary. I thought it was over and was about to ask for fast food re-enforcements until there was another blow, he was going to be later than expected. Evil dinner really threw a curve ball, I really wasn’t expecting that one. Determined ever more so now not to give up on a delicious meal & saving my diet, I gathered my weapons & returned to the battlefield. There I found 2 forgotten friends, honey & Dijon who had a little back up with butter & curry powder. The winds changed in my favor and now, fingers crossed, there is a fabulous chicken dish slaving away in the oven.

—————————————

Blender 2009 – 2012

Here lies blender, whizzer of purees, soups, sauces & even almond tortes. It will be sadly missed by me. Predeceased by the frying pan whom was murdered by my hands on the kitchen counter top.

—————————————

Evening edit: I petrified the chicken, completely burned, more than a crisp. Fossilized on my favorite oven dish.

Pyrex 9×13 pan – 2009-2012 defeated in an epic battle against chicken. Will be missed by me. Predeceased by blender & frying pan.

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Chicken Mammogram


Get your pitchforks and torches, you are about to become apart of an angry mob. Why? This is another chicken post. Before you click off this recipe has a big perk; you get the pound the snot out of chicken. It is just a fabulous way to vent out all the frustrations of the day/week/month, just be careful not to over do it otherwise instead of a nicely flattened boobie you might end up with mangled bits of meat that might be better suited for a Gwar concert or horror movie set. I enjoy this one again as instead of getting frustrated while I cook and end up swearing I get it all out before I even start cooking, it also requires very little prep which is a HUGE bonus in my books. Plus it makes you look like a savvy kitchen genius. Another gem from Mom edited and adjusted by me.

Mom’s Asparagus Pesto Chicken

AKA: The Chicken Mammogram

Kitchen stuff you’ll need:

  • Oven or convection toaster oven, 9×13 pan (best for 6 boobs…. an 8×8 would work for 4 boobs), a meat tenderizer (it looks like a mallet), a cutting board, sharp knife (whatever size you are comfortable with, you don’t need it for much), possibly a cheese grater unless you cut up bits of cheese with a knife instead. Oh and a large freezer bag, and 2 plates.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Breasts (I use 6)
  • 5 Spears of Asparagus per piece of Chicken (in my case for 6 boobs = 30) with the hard bits snapped off and washed
  • 1/4 cup of mozza approx. per chicken breast (or provolone or your preferred cheese or blend of cheese)
  • 1 Jar of Basil Pesto sauce (I use Classico)
  • fresh parmesan cheese (optional)

Note: The pesto sauce comes in a small jar, do not be alarmed, this would cover 12 chicken breasts, I made the mistake of putting my spoon inside the jar after it touched raw chicken so I HAD to dump the whole thing on the boobs otherwise I could have made do with just half the jar.

Directions:

  • Preheat Oven to 375 degrees
  • Flatten the breasts one at a time inside the freezer bag using the FLAT end of the meat tenderizer mallet and a cutting board (to save your surface from oddly shaped divets from your tenderizer depending on how hard you pummel the chicken). They should be about 1/4″ thick all over by the time you are done. I do them all at once to get it out of the way & pile them on a plate. You can sprinkle them with your preferred seasoning or just salt & pepper. I keep it simple and leave them naked for the time being.
  • Shred your cheese and put your asparagus into groups of 5.
  • Put a flattened boob on your spare plate, top with 5 spears of asparagus almost centered, sprinkle with your cheese, and roll the breast over the cheese & asparagus encasing them. Place in your oven dish and repeat until all your boobs are stuffed.
  • Next drizzle the breasts with pesto sauce as much or as little as you like. At this point you can also sprinkle with parmesan cheese or more mozza or not. Make it yours, fiddle with it until you find your favorite.
  • Place in the oven for about 40 minutes (or more or less depending on your oven and quantity of breasts. Ensure that no pink juice runs out when you poke them with a fork. If you have an instant thermometer the centre should read about 165 degrees F. I don’t have one of those I just uses my e-balls to determine no pink.

Good luck and happy eating

Here we go again & Mom’s Jammy Jam Chicken


Well I assume it has been well over a year since I posted on here and since I am back on mat leave  cookin up some delicious things in my kitchen which are simple and super easy to make I thought I’d start sharing again.

Today I am cooking up the second set of this delicious chicken dish I received from my mom and no swear words were uttered as I prepared this dish. Its fairly economical to prepare as one 500mL jar of jam & one 473 mL container of salad dressing is enough for 2 dinners, plus it uses chicken thigh which is cheaper than breast however more fatty. So if you want to use only white meat purchase instead a package of 6 breasts and the sauce should cover it (I have yet to try since chicken boobies are pretty $$ still) This recipe can serve 5 adults and one toddler with 3 thighs each  & one for the toddler, 6 people if using 6 chicken breasts or just 4 people with 4 thighs each. Its also easy to reduce this to 2 servings or multiply for more so it will be good for pot lucks or serving for guests too.

Mom’s Jammy Jam Chicken

 

Things in the kitchen you’ll need: oven, 9×13 oven safe dish, bowl, something to mix with.

Ingredients:

1 package of chicken thighs or chicken breasts

1 cup of apricot jam (or peach jam)

1 cup of catalina dressing

1 pkg of onion soup mix

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix catalina dressing, jam & onion soup mix together in bowl.

place chicken evenly in dish, try not to crowd the meat too much, pour mixture over chicken evenly. place in oven for 60 minutes, then pull out, flip chicken over and bake for another 20 minutes.

ding! chickens done.

Broccoli & rice make great sides for this. Highly unlikely you’ll have leftovers but it will reheat well on the rice the next day.

Happy eats!

Happy Balls


Mega Meat Balls

Mega MeatyBalls!This evening I made meatballs subs, pictured are the ones I made previously. I changed things up a bit this time and edited my sauce. What I am discovering is finding the perfect ball size. Last time, as you can see, my balls were HUGE, these were stuffed with mozzarella cheese which of course made them quite a bit bigger than what they already were. This time I reduced the amount of meat mixture I used to make them as well as made them a bit easier to handle; previously I could barely make it through one ball let alone three that was called for each serving. They went from being the size of my fist down to fitting comfortably in my hand (about 1-1/2" diameter) and thus I actually made it through two balls, so I am making progress. Making the right size balls is quite the art and it actually does affect the way the dish tastes. When the balls were huge the only flavor one could focus on whilst eating was meat, it was actually overwhelming. With the smaller balls I could actually taste the delicious sauce I made AND the cheezy surprise hidden perfectly in the centre. It was delicious. So my dear flakies, when you make your dish make sure you make your balls the right size! Everyone will prefer a different size ball so play around with them until you find what works best for your table.What I enjoy about this recipe is that it uses italian sausages so you don't have to fiddle fart around with your meat mixture, it's already done for you.Amazing Meatball Subs!Feeds 5-6 (3 balls per sub)Kitchen stuff you will need:scissors, sharp knife, largish bowl, cutting board, oven or toaster oven, stovetop or hotplate, large skillet and rectangular pan, spoon, tongs (or fork would do it), can openerIngredients:Italian Sausages, I used mild flavored and 2 packets of 4 sausages @ about 4" in length, remove meat from sleeveMozzarella cheese cut into bite sized cubes, one cube per ballExtra Virgin Olive Oil1 onion chopped2 garlic cloves chopped6 mushrooms choppedone 28oz can of crushed tomatoesjust under 1 tbs of italian seasoning (a blend of rosemary, thyme, oregano) you can use fresh or dried.)1 tbs ketchupsalt & pepper to tasteAbout 1 cup of shredded fresh parmesan cheese or use the pre-shredded Kraft Italian Blend cheese.6 italian sub bunsDirections:Preheat oven to 425 degreesCut mozzarella cheese into cubes and set near the mixing bowl.Remove meat from its outer "shell" and place in bowl. Form into balls and place on the rectangular pan. Put one cube inside each ball and ensure it is completly encased in the meat. Drizzle the meatballs lightly with olive oil, roll them around a bit in the oil so they won't stick to your pan (I learned this the hard way) Once the oven is done heating up, stick your pan of balls inside and cook for about 18 minutes.Once the meatballs are in the oven put your skillet on the stove on about medium heat with about 1 tbs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Add the chopped onion, garlic and mushrooms stirring frequently for about 5-6 minutes, once the onions and mushrooms begin to soften it is time to add the crushed tomatoes, italian seasonings and ketchup (salt and pepper to your taste). Turn the heat down and keep an eye on it as it will bubble and spit at you if it gets to hot. Bring this mixture to a nice simmer. place your sub buns on baking sheets and toast them in the oven once the meatballs have been removed. Only keep them in there about 3 minutes or so as they will burn quickly.Now plate up one bun, top with 3 balls and goob the sauce over top quite liberally and top with cheese, repeat for each serving. Serve with a mixed green salad and your favorite bevvie : )Enjoy!Dinner is served!

Happy Eating!

 

excuses for no excuse


In all honesty there is no excuse for my not writing once a week, I missed last week even though I DESPERATLY wanted to get on here and type my tiny little heart out however my day job amped up AND my business amped up at the same time not to mention the family stuff and plain ol fatigue.

I do have several things to write about (if I haven’t already mentioned my hand), I did attempt this Friday night when I was waiting for a very old and dear and VERY pregnant friend for coffee. In which I was using the tiniest keyboard I have ever used which makes my fingers look like sausages and I am constantly pressing the wrong buttons then as she walked in the door I too quickly closed the page and thus my painstaking hard work and tiny words were lost in the underverse of the internets. (insert LONG sympathetic sigh here).

Finally here I am several days late explaining why I am so late. The other factor is, I almost have to be in the mood (which I am so often in the WRONG situation) and of course my best ideas strike right when I am stressed and in the middle of something VERY important. I am glad I was never commissioned for anything like Michalangelo was, I would never get anything done. The ceiling of the Sistine would be a sun dyed white to date. Alas I am here and I am writing that counts for something right??? As mom always said “No excuses”  and in all honesty there is no such thing as a good excuse. The fact is I should have remained committed to both blogs and wrote my heart out no matter the hour in the evening. So my dear flakies I apologise for my absence.

Well my nights in the kitchen have been interesting to say the least, I nearly sliced off my hand, I screamed and swore at pizza dough and I burned my face off 3 times in one week. It was BAD, for some reason most of the fam didn’t mind what I called “epic fails” they liked the extra heat in my dishes and no one died so that is a good sign too. In nearly slicing off my hand the knife skills I was teaching myself went by the wayside, I was attempting at halving a butternut squash in half to stuff with vegetarian chili luckily hubs was there to point out I was about to cut my hand off, and in a nasty way because I also discovered cutting a squash, let alone 3 of them, is really tough business.

I have since learned from my dear facebook friends (who occasionally are a wealth of knowledge when they aren’t being absolutly hysterical on thier status updates) that if you ask the produce department very nicely they will go and cut the squash for you.

I learned that one cannot substitute chipotle chili powder for regular chili powder, it doesn’t even subsitute when you halve it. Whenever one sticks it in the dish it will end up burning my face off (for spicey heat wimps like me).

Be wary of zests and how much you put in. I’ve experimented with lemons, limes and now oranges (the latter being the WORST) and always pay special attention to just how much fresh zest to put in the dish. I recommend that when orange zest and sweet potato are to be mixed with sour cream AND butter just to ignore the orange part…. and maybe the sour cream. I can’t describe what happened in my mouth though I don’t think anything can be as bad as a durian. (Apologies to those who love the durian!)

When making your favorite soup, don’t make it if you don’t have what you need to give it actual flavor, I ended up with beans in slightly flavored water which wasn’t appetizing at all.

Did I mention DON’T **&(^*^&%$ with orange zest?

So always make sure your knives are sharp, cut away from yourself, don’t stick your hand under the blade. Don’t mess with orange zest, its more punch in a teaspoon than Brock Lesner. To burn your face-off add copious amounts of Chipotle Chili powder to recipes that call for regular chili powder. If there are no parmesan cheese rinds, fresh thyme, or rosemary about, skip the soup (if it is a veggie or light chicken flavored one).

And the best part, make time for your friends, tell the ones you love them and say something positive to yourself and someone who needs it. Which in my experience is everyone.

Happy Eating!

what the *beep* is an abodo? And other mysteries.


This is something I have been wondering for about a year. I know abodo is a pepper and it is most likely “burn my face off hot” I am wondering this as I have upteen recipes calling for abodo chillis or abodo chilli powder or chillis in abodo sauce.

As I go through cookbooks and see this ingredient I usually sluff it off and either put it on ignore, replace it with a chipotle chili powder, regular chili powder or just a jalapeno or red pepper. In small town southern Alberta it seems hard to find some fancy pants ingredients that are probably available in every grocery store states side no matter what the location.

Think of me with a pursed lip or mouthing “what the ******************???!!!” I narrow my eyes at the word and I bite my thumb at it. Abodo! Pah!

Now is the time for an answer, i am tired of the question mark hanging over my head and making fun of me behind my back. I must put an end to this mystery. I just googled it and discovered I just epic-ly failed on the spelling of the word…. ADOBO. (Which being a designer by trade reminds me of Adobe which is completely unrelated). I must say I am quite embarrassed though I don’t think I will be making that spelling mistake again. I have scoured the local shelves for this item and there are none to be found, I’ve  searched the shelves in the city too and still no luck. I am thinking unless there is some chilli store opened up I may never try this for myself. (This also reads as “I am too cheap to pay for shipping and handling for ordering speciality food“) Or else I am completely blind and it is available at the local WalMart however I do doubt it so. So far my omissions or substitutions are making up for the lack of adobo-ness in my dishes.

Adobo aside there is something else that has been nagging at me “smoked tomatoes” another mystery ingredient that is constantly eluding me. I’ve looked for it in the fresh produce, the pasta aisle, the soup aisle, jarred veggies aisle , the mexican aisle and other ethnic food areas of grocery stores. I’ve been wanting to try something like this as it sounds delicious. I have half a mind to don my mad scientist gear & buy some liquid smoke then add it to a tin of crushed tomatoes however I have a hunch it won’t produce near the same taste (and how does one create this upon not eating it) or flavor experience. Speaking of smoke, how does one liquify a smoke???? That must have been quite a process. Either way it is impressive one can buy such an item. The change from what was available in the 80’s when my mom was shopping compared today is a HUGE change (pancakes in a spray can?!).

Smoked tomatoes must be a rare species, I can almost hear David Attenburough narrating the life and times of the endangered “smoked tomato”; Maybe it occasionally takes an adobo chilli lover! The flavor offspring! GASP! A moment truely unique in the fruit and spice kingdom and gives a whole new meaning to “blended families.” Sadly the life of both the smoked tomato and adobo pepper are doomed to be short. Plucked from the vines, torn away from each other, processed in a distant foreign factory &  thier lives end caged within a tin can. They secretly hope a human (LIKE ME) will pick it up and put it out of its misery in a delicious taco recipe to be devoured by thier waiting and hungry children. If there were such a can of deliciousness I would have picked up 4 as I need one for tonights dish “Turkey Chili Shepherds pie topped with sweet potatoes“.

Sounds delicious doesn’t it, well the adobo and smoked tomato have snubbed me. I will have to make do with what I have available for now. If anyone wants to start an adobo & smoked tomato Alberta invasion, send them my way!

Happy Eating.

 

The potatoes were obscene….


Welcome to another instalment of Burned Cornflakes! Not a whole lot has happened since my epic feast was served on the big holiday however I nearly screwed up an “old faithful” of mine. Growing up I watched meal after meal with any leftovers they would be placed and labelled in a container and placed in either the fridge or freezer for future use, I was always lectured on the importance of NOT WASTING. Let me just say that this lecture didn’t really sink in (sorry mom… in ways it did! Promise!). I am absolutely NO SAINT in this area; I bin a lot of food, some of it is still good, some beyond rotten from the depths of a lunch bag or worse. I get upset about it, whine or nag only sometimes but mostly I just methodically toss things in the bin with a pursed lip and a guilty conscience.

After the “epic holiday feast” was done there were leftovers which we mostly took care of in the amazing turkey soup I helped hubs make. Further down the list of leftovers were potatoes, I didn’t know what to do with them and having a family audience (read this as “my mom has eyes like a hawk and would BUST me for wasting if I dared“) so I squashed them between 2 gently used pie plates (yay for recycling!) and tossed in the freezer. Yes, IN THE FREEZER. I figured they would be alright because I saw advertised a big company preparing mashed potatoes to whip out of the freezer on a whim and show off to your relatives. (side note: I do find the ads very annoying). That aside when in doubt I toss EVERYTHING in the freezer, if it ends up freezer burnt it will probably either have one of 2 fates… tossed into a dish that over cooks everything or in the bin. LOL.

Once that was all done I kind of forgot about them until hubs asked for dead shepherd for dinner. I could imagine the light bulb going off over my head as I remembered the potatoes. So I set on my merry way to preparing a beloved family dish. I sliced up 8 extra potatoes to ensure I had enough coverage as when I make my dead shepherd it is usually fit to serve about 10 people. There I was happily cooking away listening to my potatoes & parsnips boil, the meat brown and the microwave struggling to defrost 2 lbs of pre mashed potatoes. Once my meat & onion had browned completely I drain the fat off and add in the rest of my ingredients. I went to my faithful freezer of random food and started pulling out random chopped things to add in; I noticed this little Tupperware container in the back with something unknown in it, with a shrug of the shoulder and not a second thought I tossed the puppy in with my other random finds. Not until this mystery substance melted and created a large liquid content did I start worrying. Then came the aroma (it smelled pleasant) and I got to thinking….. what the heck did I just put in the dead shepherd?

I panicked.

Only slightly.

Promise.

Until I realised with a sweet wave of relief that we had saved of my epic experiments making Au Jus for gnarly beef dips, this one in particular was roasted garlic au jus (yum!). With a (small) leap of joy I happily finished up and served the “Frankenstein” dead shepherd. (I have a dear friend who calls experiments Frankenstein’s, I loved the term so much I added it to my vocab). So I got lucky….this time. It could have possibly still lead to disaster as one of the sauces I had put in as part of my “wild card” flavorings was a brown sugar flavour, so I passed this one by the hair on my chinny chin chin.

As for the potatoes they were a tad obscene, I may have made too many. Actually, I will admit it I did make too many as the topping was HUGE. I had about 2-1/2″ thick worth of potatoes (I had combined the left over mashed potatoes with 2 parsnips and 8 freshly boiled potatoes mashed with unsalted margarine). So a lesson learned from an old classic recipe we adore.

As a treat I’ll sound off my classic “un-Frankenstein-ed” version of Dead Shepherd.

NOTE: makes approx. 10 servings! (good for making a big batch and freezing mini meals for later).

What else is great about this is you can add or subtract anything you like and you’re almost guaranteed a great dish. Experiment with different ground meats, ingredients and toppings!!! Though I have no idea what one would do for a vegetarian version of this…. Possibly mashed beans/lentils and Portobello mushrooms (?)…. Have to brainstorm on that one!

Thinking about it, this is almost the un-recipe of recipe’s as there are no real set rules! Dare I say an anarchistic dish?! *gasp*

Kitchen Stuff you will need:

  • 2 largish pots
  • an ovenproof dish
  • strainer or lids to pots
  • stovetop or hot plate
  • oven or toaster oven
  • a spatula or spoon to stir
  • potato masher (a fork works but it is labour intensive)
  • cutting board
  • knife (sharp, preferably unserrated)

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg lean gr. Beef (or preferred ground meat, if using ground turkey you WILL need to use olive oil or cooking oil to ensure the meat doesn’t stick and burn to the pot)
  • 0.3 – 0.5kg of lean gr. Pork
  • 1 Medium to large red onion chopped
  • Montreal Steak Seasoning (to taste)
  • Worstershire sauce about 3 tsp (I eyeball it)
  • Barbeque Sauce or Fruity HP Sauce * optional* about ½ cup; in place of this you could put in about ½ cup of beef broth or French onion soup mix. Experiment and make it yours!
  • 1 can of Baked beans *optional* experiment with flavors! J
  • Vegetables of your choice you can use freshly chopped or mixed froxen vegetables. I use about 4-5 cups of frozen vegetables.
  • 7 potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 2-3 parsnips peeled and sliced *optional* – I add these in for added nutrition and sneaking more veggies in to my resident picky eater
  • Water
  • Margarine or butter *optional* about ¼ cup
  • Sour Cream *optional* to taste or serve alongside your dinner if people like potatoes and sour cream!
  • Shredded cheese *optional*

Directions:

Set oven to “broil” (my oven defaults the broil temp to 500 degrees and I don’t change it.) ensure your oven rack is set to the right height to accommodate your oven dish.

Place potatoes and parsnips in large pot fill water to cover them and place on high heat to boil. Once they bubble violently turn down the heat to medium. The potatoes will be cooked when they slide off the fork.

While the potatoes are boiling brown the meat in the other large pot with the onion on med-high heat. Sprinkle with Montreal Steak seasoning (or not!). Once the meat has browned drain the fat into safe container and dispose of the fat safely. DO NOT POUR IT DOWN ANY DRAINS!!!!

Return the meat pot to the stovetop and add in the worstershire sauce, the bbq sauce (if you are using) and the baked beans. Stir. Add in your veggies stir and let them soften/warm through. Once this is done remove from the heat (turn off your burner). Slide all your ingredients into your waiting oven dish.

Once your parsnips and potatoes have finished boiling, remove them from the heat, drain and begin mashing. Once the mashing is on its way add in the margarine and continue mashing to your desired consistency. I like to sometimes add sour cream and mash it in too. It is up to you and your taste buds.

When you have your desired mashed potato awesomeness grab a spoon and top your meat base with them. I like to draw a pattern in mine so when the potatoes brown in the oven it makes a cute picture. If you so desire sprinkle the cheese top of your potatoes for a kid pleaser (and cheese lover!)

Place in the oven for about 15 minutes until the potatoes reach your desired browned/crispyness.

Serve.

This recipe is great to refine to your particular tastes and what your guests, family likes or make it the way your family did. Plus it is super easy!

Remember to label your leftovers (with everything) to avoid disasters in the future!

Happy Eating J