2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,700 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Chickpea Flour Cornbread

I really liked cooking with chickpea flour in the recipe for Socca (chickpea pancake)from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything so I thought I would try adding some to a cornbread recipe to go with my green chilli tonight.  I subbed half the cornmeal for chickpea flour.

1 1/2 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 cup chickpea flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup grated old cheddar or more (optional)
2 1/4 cup buttermilk or equivalent milk/water and greek yogurt
1 egg
2 tbsps. oil (I used some hot chilli oil I’d made)

Heat the oven to 375’F and put a cast iron skillet in while the oven pre-heats.

Mix the dry ingredients well, then toss in the cheese so it is coated in flour and evenly distributed.

Mix the milk/yogurt/buttermilk(whatever you use) and the egg together well.bread 001

Add the liquid to the dry ingredients, stirring til just combined.  I had to play with the proportions here, it should be a thick batter (not pourable) but not a dough.

Take the skillet out of the hot oven, pour in the oil (or bacon dripping or whatever fat you like) and scrape in the batter, spreading to cover the skillet.

bread 003Bake for 30 minutes.  Adding corn kernels, crumbled bacon, chopped peppers or whatever else takes your fancy would be nice too!

bread 004This was really tasty, lighter than cornbread, with the added toasty nutty flavour of chickpea flour.bread 005We had ours with our dinner of green chilli!bread 006I’d definitely make this recipe again and I want to find more ways to cook with chickpea flour!

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Celeriac and Bacon Hash

Heat oven to 400’F.

hash 001Chop up about 6 slices of bacon and add to cold skillet with some water.  Turn heat to medium-high and cook bacon until crisp and fat has rendered out.

hash 002Add cubed leftover celeriac, and toss well so it is coated in fat, add more oil if needed.

hash 003Add in chopped onion, garlic and herbs (sage, rosemary and thyme).  Toss well.

Roast in oven for 30 minutes, til browned, stirring occasionally.

It actually took a lot longer, more like 45 minutes to get the celeriac browned, although it was cooked – maybe because it is more wet than a potato?

Add in blanched kale and stir, hash 001then top with cheese (I was lucky to have some Balderson double smoked cheddar – not a normal staple for us!) hash 002and put back in oven til cheese is melted and browned.

This was a really tasty meal that made the leftovers different – it was so popular some of it got eaten before I could take a photo.  hash 003Will just made a sandwich with the last of it between bread spread with ketchup (shudder!).

Posted in Cast-iron Skillet, Leftovers, Main Dishes, Skillet | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whole Celeriac with Barley and Kale in the Slowcooker

I first came across this recipe as “Zombie Brains” in Jaime Oliver’s Save With Jaime.   After looking for online for accounts of people who’d tried it, I found this post on the blog Eat Simply, Live Well. She had the clever idea of turning the idea into a one pot slow-cooked meal in the oven.  This seemed like a natural progression to a slow cooker meal, so I’m making a trial attempt.  I’m not sure how any of it will work out as I’ve strayed from both her and Jaime’s versions, but that’s have the fun.  For example, I just noticed she used pearl not pot barley.  We’ll see how that goes I guess!

1 large celeriac (celery root) (mine was 1.25 pounds)4 cups any chopped mushrooms (oyster and button)
1 onion chopped roughly
5 cloves garlic chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3/4 cup pot barley, rinsed and drained
3 cups water / vegetable or other broth (Knorr’s veg. broth powder)
1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped (I could only fit 3/4 bunch)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon each minced fresh rosemary, thyme and sage (or use dried to taste)

Saute mushroom, onions, and garlic in a bit of oil over medium heat (or use bacon dripping if you want to ruin a perfectly good vegetarian recipe like me!).  I was lucky to find some oyster mushrooms in the discount bin at Pete’s. celeriac 005

Deglaze pan with about 1/4 cup of water, flavoured with a few splashes of worsterchire sauce.celeriac 006

Combine carrots, kale, barley, sauteed mushrooms, garlic and onions in slow cooker.  Pour broth or water over top.

Clean celeriac.  Mine was pretty clean to begin with compared with some I’ve seen online.  celeriac 001celeriac 002I soaked it in warm soapy water and then scrubbed it really well with a long bristled brush.  Examine it carefully, especially any little crevices, cut off tiny protruding pieces if they seem to be holding in dirt or much.  I found the top of it had some (previously, now decaying – and vegetarians thing meat is gross!)  leaf matter trapped by little protruding pieces that I had to dig/cut/scrub out.  celeriac 004celeriac 003I also sliced off the bottom as I thought it would have grit but I think it was actually fine.

Now place your root on top of everything in the slow cooker.  If you need to move things around to make a well for it, mine just fit.

Place a blob of butter on top or some olive oil maybe.  I used some garlic butter I’d made and had leftover.  It fit right in the little gully I had to dig the muck out of on the top of the root.celeriac 007

Cook on low for 8 hours.  We’ll see how this one goes!

After about 5 hours on low the butter in the middle was foaming and the root was getting more tender, but still had resistance when poked with a fork.celery 002After 8 hours, it was very tender and sliced extremely easily, a butter knife might have done the job:celery 003The barley and kale had cooked down completely and there wasn’t any extra broth left.celery 004It was an interesting, tasty, and filling meal – the root is kind of like a super-mild turnip crossed with a potato and some celery flavour.  The kale and barley were especially nice and I will defintely slow cook it again!celery 005I think this recipe trasitioned to the slow cooker really well, but I’ve not tried the oven baked version so I’m not sure of any real difference in quality.

Tomorrow night I think I will cube up the remaining root and fry it up with some bacon in a hash.

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Slow Cooker Three Bean Chili

This recipe is one I made up based on what I had on hand and ideas from several recipes on the internet – I experimented with mole sauce a while ago which uses cocoa powder without sweetness for a savory seasoning, and wanted to try it with a chili.  I used a 6.5 quart slow cooker (the largest type to my knowledge) and it was actually a bit too full, so I would cut back on the beans and the vegetables a bit to make it fit better another time.  My carrot was huge, probably the size of 3 normal carrots – it was a nice yellow heirloom carrot though!

Also sorry about the blurry pictures, some setting got changed on my camera, have to figure that out soon!

Slow Cooker Three Bean Chili
Spice Mix:
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika (hot or sweet or a mix)
1 tsp celery salt (or plain salt)

Chili ingredients:
1 cup coffee (leftover is fine)
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons tomato paste (about half a small can)1 can diced tomatoes, or whole tomatoes cut up
1 can crushed tomatoes
2 cups cooked white beans (or one large can)
1 can black beans (or 2 cups cooked)
1 can kidney beans (or 2 cups cooked)
1 small can (127 ml) chopped green chilies (with liquid)
1 pound ground beef (optional)
2 large onions, chopped
1 head garlic (about 16 cloves or use less if you prefer) minced or grated
2 rainbow peppers, chopped (I had red and orange)
2 carrots finely chopped (I used the food processor)
1 sweet potatoe, peeled and finely chopped (processor again!)

Gather the spice mix ingredients and stir to combine.chili 004

Mix coffee, molasses and tomato pasted and stir until combined.chili 001

Grease slow cooker insert and dump 2 cans of tomatoes, all the beans, and the chilies, then stir to combine. chili 002 I also added some fresh oregano and sage I picked when I was last at my parent’s place from their garden.

Brown ground beef (if using) in skillet over medium high heat.  Sprinkle a few tablespoons of the spice mix onto the meat for seasoning.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the beef and add to the slow cooker.  Stir to combine.  If necessary, remove some of the fat from the skillet, leaving enough to saute the remaining vegetables.

Saute the onion until it begins to brown.  Season with the remaining spice mix.  Add the mined garlic, peppers, carrot and sweet potato.  chili 005Saute until fragrant and vegetables begin to colour.  Scrape the vegetable and spice mix into the cooker.chili 006

Return the skillet to the heat and pour in the coffee liquid.  Scrape up any brown bits from the skillet and let the liquid simmer until reduced.  Pour into the cooker and stir.chili

Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 5.  You can definitely let it cook longer if you prefer! As you can see this was really too full – there should be at least 1 1/2″ space a the top for the best results in a slow cooker, but I’m hoping it will collapse a bit as the vegetables soften, and with this dish everything is previously cooked so I’m not too worried!

Result:  This turned out really well, you couldn’t specifically taste cocoa or coffee, but it did taste richer and more interesting than my normal chili.  I did turn it on high and leave the lid open a crack to reduce some of the thin liquid that cooked out of the vegetables, and it turned out nice and thick.  I also adjusted the spices to add some chili flakes and cayenne pepper for heat.  I will make this one again for sure!

Posted in Beans, Beef, Cast-iron Skillet, Main Dishes, Skillet, Slowcooker, Vegetarian Possibility | Leave a comment

Slow Cooker Smothered Pork Chops

I found this recipe for smothered pork chops in The Best Slow & Easy Recipes: A Best Recipe Classic which I just picked up from the library(there is a video of the episode here). I find their cookbooks and shows are great, as they give you a lot of tips and tricks for improving recipes, and why they work – a lot of times the information applies to other recipes as well. I’ll be trying a few more recipes from the book in the next few weeks.

I did change the recipe a bit to suit what I had on hand. The original included bacon which I am always an advocate of, but sadly all I had was some reserved bacon fat, which I made good use of!

Slow Cooker Smothered Pork Chops
6 pork chops (recommended bone-in blade-cut pork chops, about 3/4″ thick) I could only find a mixed pack of bone-in loin and rib chops – I think bone in is important for this recipe, for flavour
oil or reserved bacon fat
8 -10 mushrooms, finely chopped
1 large carrot diced small
3 onions, quartered and thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons arrowroot flour (I didn’t have cornstarch, they call for 1 tablespoon cornstarch, use that if you have it!)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Pour 2 cups of broth, thyme, soy sauce, bay leaves, pepper, and thickener (cornstarch or arrowroot flour) into slow cooker, and whisk to combine.chops 001

Heat a skillet over medium high heat, and melt bacon fat until shimmering. Brown chops (only 3 at a time fit in my pan) and set aside on a plate.chops 002If necessary add more fat/oil to pan, then  add chopped mushrooms and fry until they start to get golden brown. Throw in carrot and continue to saute for a few minutes.  chops 003Transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker broth mixture.

Again, add additional fat/oil if necessary then add onions, 1 tablespoon brown sugar.  Cook over medium-high heat until onions are soft, about 6 minutes. (forgot to take fried onion picture, they were lovely, nice dark golden brown colour!) Stir in garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds longer. Transfer the onion mixture to slow cooker.chops 005Pour remaining one cup of broth into skillet and scrape up any brown bits from the pan, simmer for a few minutes, then add to slow cooker.chops 004

Place chops and any accumulated juices into slow cooker, chops 006being sure to cover with some of the vegetable mixture. chops 007Cook on low until pork is very tender, about 8 hours (or cook on high for 4 hours).

At the end of the cooking time, remove the chops and skim the fat off the top of the sauce, or, as I did, just use a shallow spoon and over the last hour or so of cooking gently lower the spoon and allow fat to drain into it and discard.   Then, add one tablespoon of cider vinegar to the sauce (this really added that certain something!).

There was quite a bit of fat to remove, but it was quite easy to do – even easier would be to remove chops, refrigerate sauce, and remove fat when solid – the next day will probably only make the dish tastier.

This was delicious!  The pork was fork tender and the sauce sooo yummy.  chops 008chops 009

Served with brown rice and sauteed brussel sprouts.

Posted in Cast-iron Skillet, Main Dishes, Pork, Skillet, Slowcooker | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Slow Cooker Beans and Barley

I wanted to make an easy side dish, and this recipe fit what was hanging around in my pantry.  It is based on sever Red Beans and Barley recipes I found online, but I’ve made it less tomato-ey by draining out the canned tomatoes very well.

1 cup uncooked, rinsed pot barley (not pearled)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots diced
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 t red pepper flakes, crushed
15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed
28 oz can diced tomatoes, drained well
2 piece bay leaf
3 3/4 cups broth + 1/4 soy sauce
pepper and thyme to taste

Saute the onion, carrot and garlic until softened.

barley 002 Pour some of the broth into the saute pan to lift any flavour out of the skillet.barley 003

Add all remaining ingredients to the slow cooker, barley 001and cook for 7 hours on low.
barley 004

This recipe smelled delicious the whole time it was cooking – it actually kind of smelled like it was cooked with red wine – I think it was the broth/soy/tomato combination that did that.  The next time I would definitely reduce the broth by one cup.  You can always add more broth , but its hard to reduce without affecting the dish!  Still it seems a nice creamy rich texture and very healthy too!  I will work on this recipe and report back – like to get it down to a sort of rice pilaf consistency.

salmon 003

Posted in Beans, Main Dishes, Side dishes, Slowcooker, Vegetarian Possibility | Tagged , , | Leave a comment