Sunday, 26 August 2012

Coca Cola Ribs

This is a crazy old recipe that has been around forever! You cook the ribs in Coke or Root Beer (Root Beer is my favourite) in the oven then you let cool and grill them with your favourite sauce. It's so easy but, surprisingly good. You gotta try it.

 You will need:

  • 2 racks of baby back ribs -silver skin removed from back
  • 1 onion
  • 1 can of coke
  • barbecue seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes for a bit of heat 

Step 1: chop the onion into big chunks- you are using the onion as a rack to keep the ribs elevated. 

Step 2: remove the silver skin which is a tough layer of fat on the backs of the ribs. I use a knife to start it off and then it will peel off if you take a paper towel to get a good grip on the skin.

Step 3: sprinkle your favourite barbecue seasoning all over the ribs (front & back) I often make my own blend but, I found a great store bought blend that has no preservatives so for speed I used it this time.

Step 4: take your onions and put layer under the ribs and add your can of coke to the pan. Cover with foil and cook in the oven at  325 degrees 1 1/2 hours covered. 

Step 5: after they have cooked for 1 1/2 hours remove foil and cook 15-20 minutes uncovered to get a bit of colour on the meat.

Step 6: allow the meat to cool then grill on low heat with your favourite sauce until nice and carmelized.

watch how fast they go! This is plenty for two people but, the recipe is easy to increase for a larger crowd.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Potato Salad

I am not normally a fan of potato salad because most people put way too much mayonnaise on it for me. I prefer this European style potato salad. You boil some waxy potatoes and then peel them when they are hot and toss them in a flavourful vinaigrette when they are still warm to absorb all the goodness. It is excellent served warm or cold.

You will need:

  • 6-7 potatoes (waxy)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt/pepper to taste (potatoes love salt and pepper)

optional -you can also sprinkle on some bacon bits for good crunch and flavour.

Step 1: in a large pot boil some waxy (I have used red skinned) potatoes whole until tender. When they are cooled enough peel the skin and slice.

Step 2: prepare your vinaigrette in a bowl adding all remaining ingredients.

Step 3: toss your potatoes while they are still hot or warm which will allow the flavours to absorb better. It can be served warm or cold. If you put in the fridge for an extended period of time you may want to redress the potatoes with a bit more dressing to refresh it before serving.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Grilled Ginger Honey Salmon

This is a half side of Wild Salmon that I cooked on a tray on the grill/barbecue. I used the grill as an oven because it was just too hot in the house to heat up the stove. It turned out perfect and the ginger and honey topping made it sweet, spicy and salty. The clean up is also great since the skin stays on the paper and you can just toss it away.

You will need:

  • 1 half of side of Salmon -I love the wild salmon
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger grated or chopped fine
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 3 cloves of garlic chopped fine
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • sprinkle of Chinese five spice powder
  • salt/pepper

Step 1: get a nice piece of Salmon. If you can get fresh great but, I buy frozen all the time (like here!) and it tastes great. I thaw it in the fridge for a day before I want to use.

Step 2: Remove any bones and place fish on parchment paper on a baking tray. Mix all your ingredients and slather most of fish. Leave some for basting while it cooks.

Step 3: place on medium grill and close lid. Let cook for 10 minutes. Baste with remaining sauce and cook for another 5- 10 minutes until fish is opaque and cooked. You can cut and slide a spatula right under the skin to peel it off before plating.

Gorgeous and so quick to make. 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Blueberry Pie

It is blueberry season and Big Pete has decided that he loves blueberry pie. Who knew!

The area we just moved from in British Columbia is the blueberry growing area. If you drive around the Fraser Valley you will see miles and miles of blueberry farms. 

This is an all butter crust, fresh blueberry pie. Serve with a big blob of great quality vanilla ice cream and you are all set!

You will need:
  • 5 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 4 tbsp minute tapioca 
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp butter in small chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 stick butter chopped in small chunks and frozen
  • 6-8 tbsp ice cold water  (I used 1 tbsp vodka and the rest water)
  • egg (for egg wash)
  • sprinkle of course sugar for top
*optional 1 tbsp blueberry jam

Step 1: in a food processor (you can do this by hand also) add stick of butter that had been cubed and frozen for at least 20 minutes to flour, salt and sugar. Pulse 10 -12 times. 

Step 2: add the ice cold water and pulse again 4-5 times until it almost starts to come together. I like to use some cold vodka in place of some of the water (it makes a nice flaky dough) if you prefer all water that is the traditional way. You can also use half shortening and half butter but, I prefer all butter. Butter will give you good flavour and shortening or lard provides flakiness in a crust. I just would rather eat butter than shortening or lard. I divide the dough into two and quickly form into a disc with the plastic wrap so I don't melt the butter. Put in fridge for 30 minutes before rolling out.

Step 3: mix your blueberries with sugar, minute tapioca (which will thicken your blueberry juices so it is not so runny) cinnamon, lemon zest, juice and a bit of blueberry jam (optional)

Step 4: roll out each disc of dough. Place one on the bottom and fill with blueberry mixture. I like to roll out the top and cut out holes with cookie cutters, then place on top. Make sure to fold over edges and crimp to keep top and bottom crusts together during baking.

Step 5: brush with egg wash and sprinkle top with some sugar. Freeze 30 minutes before baking at 375 degrees F  for 60- 70 minutes. I always put on a tray with some foil or parchment which makes for easy clean up if there is any leakage.

Step 6: this part is the hardest. Wait at least 2-3 hours before cutting into it. This will allow the pie to cool so you can slice it. If you cut it when it just comes out if will fall apart and the blueberry  juices will run all over your plate.

serve with ice cream or whipped cream. I couldn't even get a picture with ice cream the wild dogs were all over this!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Tiropita - Greek Cheese Pies

There is Spanakopita which is Spinach and Feta or Tiropita which is just cheese. You can make Tiropita with just straight feta or if you find it too salty you can make it with equal amounts of ricotta and feta.
I like it with just feta. 

"The Dad" was here visiting and he loves this so I made it for him. He comes from northern Greece and they just call this Pita in his family. Big Pete wouldn't eat this if you paid him. All I can say is there ain't no accounting for taste! That boy just don't get it. This stuff is delicious.

 I normally make little phyllo triangles because I like the flaky phyllo to cheese ratio but, "The Dad" likes it as a pie and not just the normal thickness of cheese, he likes it with lots of cheese. I just folded over the bottom layer of phyllo and made it twice as thick as normal.

 You can make it any way you like it, full tray, half tray or individual triangles.

 When I eat Tiropita I always think of my dear friends Mary Ann and George and parties in their backyard with a million relatives and a million trays of good food! Thanks Mary Ann for making this always taste so much better because of my memories.

You will need:

2 pkgs (400 grams) feta cheese = 2 1/2 cups crumbled
2 eggs
1/4 tsp ground fresh nutmeg
1/2 tsp lemon zest
10 sheets of phyllo dough
1/2 stick butter - melted

optional use equal parts of ricotta cheese and feta

Step 1: buy the best quality feta you can. I always say that the feta imported from Greece is far superior in texture and taste in my opinion. I also could not find any so I had to use a Canadian one (I will find a good gourmet market in my new town soon! I miss Lepp Farm Market so much) Crumble the feta with your fingers and add the eggs, lemon zest and freshly ground nutmeg.

Step 2: I have used a 9 x 13 inch (quarter sheet) pan that I have lined with parchment paper for easy removal and so I don't have to cut the Tiropita in the pan and scratch it. I take a thawed (read box for instructions) sheet of phyllo and brush with melted butter. Fold over the sheet and brush with more butter. I repeat with 5 sheets which makes 10 layers. I like this size of sheet pan because it fits a folded piece of phyllo almost perfectly. Normally I would spoon on the filling and then top with 5 more buttered sheets. The Dad wanted his pie thick so instead I just spooned the filling on half and folded it over like a big turnover.

If you want to make triangles cut the phyllo into long strips horizontally and then place a small amount of cheese on one edge and fold like a flag. I also like to wrap each triangle in 2 buttered sheets of phyllo so the filling stays contained nicely when baking. I also love the triangles because you can fill then and freeze them for a later date.

Step 3: brush with more melted butter and bake at 350 degrees F until browned nicely. Approx 30 minutes but watch it to be sure.

It's delicious served warm and it can be stored in the fridge covered for a few days. To get the phyllo flaky again just reheat for a few minutes in the oven and it gets to be good as freshly baked.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Stuffed Shells with Ricotta and Spinach

This is a great meal which you can easily make for both vegetarians and meat lovers at the same time. The vegetarian's get a nice tomato sauce on top and for the meat eater you add a meat sauce which makes everyone happy at the same meal. If you want to stuff the shells with seasoned ground beef this is also another option.

You will need:

*for 2 people

  • 10-12 large cooked shells
  • 250 grams ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 box frozen spinach- thawed, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp good balsamic vinegar
  • salt/pepper
  • tomato sauce or meat sauce
  • mozzarella to top
Optional: 1 small clove garlic grated fine or crushed

Step 1: boil water in a large pot and cook approx 14 large shells for 2 portions. (I always cook a few more than I need in case some break while cooking) If you want to make a big batch its easy to stuff the shells, top with sauce and cheese and then freeze. I always freeze in individual portions so you can always take out one at a time if you want. 

Step 2: mix ricotta and chopped spinach well. Grate some fresh nutmeg, add a bit of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. I like to add a small clove of crushed garlic and then taste it. If you need more seasoning do it here. Most people are terrified of salt but, when you cook yourself you typically add way less salt then processed foods ever have in them so don't be so worried unless you have a sodium issue.

Step 3: add 5-6 stuffed shells to a ramekin for a generous portion. Top with your favourite sauce and cheese and when you are ready heat in a 350 degree F oven until the cheese is browned and bubbly. You can also add some grated Parmesano Reggiano on top which will add lots of good flavour.

This is the meat topping. If you have a great meat sauce left from a Spaghetti Bolognese dinner use it here or just a pure tomato with some fresh basil is also fantastic! 

Friday, 17 August 2012

Alberta Beef Stew

This is a hearty stew that is wonderful served with big chunks of fresh bread on a cool night. 
After the initial prep work the most important ingredient in this kind of a soup is time. It is amazing how good a few simple ingredients can be made with the addition of time. The cowboys in my house ate the whole pot but, it tastes awesome the next day if you have any leftovers. Big Pete and The Dad ate this like a pack of hungry wolves under a full moon. It's man food for sure!

I was surprised the other day when my new neighbour Shandy's Mother brought over 3 big bags of wonderful vegetables from her garden to share. I am thankful and warmed by the kindness of people who you have just met that share the fruits of their hard work so willingly. I thought with such a wonderful bounty I would make a nice stew with beautiful Alberta beef.
 This is beef country after all!

You will need:
  • 2 lbs of beef (stewing beef or a tougher cut)
  • a couple of small onions or 1 large- chopped fine
  • 5-6 cloves garlic- chopped fine
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh rosemary-chopped fine
  • fresh thyme-chopped fine
  • fresh basil-chopped fine
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp dry Italian seasoning
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (regular kind not the good stuff)
  • 3-4 carrots sliced
  • 5-10 little new potatoes 
  • 1 pkg mushrooms- sliced any variety
  • 1-2 parsnips- sliced
  • 1/2 cup red wine or 1 can of beer or beef broth
*add the vegetables you like to make the perfect blend for your family.

Step 1: I like to partially freeze my meat to chop easily or thaw out some that you might have in your freezer.

Step 2: slice and chop all your vegetables.

Step 3: fry the onions in the olive oil for a few minutes until they start to get browned.

Step 4: add your meat and cook until all the moisture is cooked out and they oil begins to fry and brown the meat. You can also fry the meat in small batches without crowding the pot (like I have done because I was lazy and rushing) The browned meat add more flavour to the end product but, either way it's still pretty darn tasty.

Step 5: once your meat is partially cooked add the rest of your vegetables and half of your fresh herbs. (save the rest to serve at the minute before serving for a fresh flavour) Add all your seasonings and liquid. Bring to a boil then turn down to low and simmer for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours until the meat is fall apart tender and tasty. Taste it and adjust the seasonings. Add the remaining fresh herbs.

Step 6: serve with crusty bread and butter and a glass of red wine and you have an awesome bowl of yummy stew.

Thank you Shandy's Mom!