Bay Leaves In Beans

Putting bay leaves in the water when I soak beans overnight is something I have been doing so long I can’t remember whether it was told to me or I read it. I think it was someone telling me about it making the beans more tender. Not sure if it actually does, but I do know it does something. About ten years ago I was out of bay leaves when I was making congressional bean soup, which I make often. Surprisingly the beans didn’t taste near as good as they normally did.

Now, thinking about it, I actually don’t think it makes the beans any more tender but it does change how easily they absorb flavours. Also the bay leaves do flavour the beans. A little thinking about high school chemistry reminds me that you can change absorption rates of things by using certain chemicals. Something that the bay leaves give off in the water changes the absorption ability of the bean in a good way. Not sure if it does but there is a difference in taste.

Or it could be that I just think it does and don’t want to change what I do when I soak beans. We all have things we do and will not change because it’s the way we do things.

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Picking Ham Bones

I made a post about a question I was asked, ” what’s the most important thing I would tell someone just starting to cook”. My answer was don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Today I am making ham stock and I just finished picking the ham Bones. While I had both hands in all the stuff I took out of the pot I thought of exactly how important that statement is. Yes you could just throw everything out when you strain the stock but that would be a total waste of good meat. Yes my hands were a mess when I was done, it took washing them twice to get rid of the oily feeling but it is worth it. If I hadn’t of gotten my hands dirty I would of wasted over four cups of ham. There would of been a little more but I snacked some while I was doing it. Never be afraid to get your hands dirty, all you have to do is wash them when your done.

Started with I idea of making congressional soup tomorrow but might modify it just for the fun of it. Like a lot of times the decision of what it ends up being will be made when I start cooking.

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Garlic, Parsley, Scalloped Potatoes

I should of taken a picture, but it was Easter and I forgot to. Really wasn’t even thinking about posting this recipe at all. It was our family telling me when they tasted it that it needed to be on my blog. Our son-in-law put it this way, it’s blog worthy.

Normally when I make scalloped potatoes it involves using a lot of cheese. Our son-in-law doesn’t like Canadian cheese so cheese was out. He has a good reason for his dislike of Canadian cheese. There is a big difference in cheese from different countries, it has to do with the taste of the milk. What a cow feeds on and the bred of the cattle determines the taste and it gets magnified in the cheese.

Our son Ian isn’t a big fan of scalloped potatoes, he says it’s because of the onions. I admit that I do use, normally, a lot of onions. Thing is you really do need onions to make good scalloped potatoes so just like when he was a little kid I needed to hide them. I succeeded because he said he really liked the scalloped potatoes and even had seconds.

This recipe, unless you have very good knife skills, should be made using a mandolin. Using a mandolin also makes it easier and a lot faster to make. I do have a mandolin but since I like a good challenge I used a knife. My normal thing when making any potatoes even to mash it is one potato per person so for this dish it was fourteen potatoes. For less you will have to do the math to figure it out, but leftover scalloped potatoes are a great thing. We ended up with absolutely no leftovers, guess that does say it was good. I will start with the bechamel sauce because it is a little different.

BECHAMEL SAUCE

1/2 cup butter

6 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons salt ( this may seem a lot but you are seasoning the whole dish )

1 and 1/2 teaspoons pepper

6 cloves garlic minced ( you need to use a micro grater or a garlic press for this ) ( you need 2 tablespoons )

pinch of cayenne pepper

pinch of nutmeg

1 and 1/2 cups of milk

1 and 1/2 cups half and half cream

Melt butter in a saucepan with the garlic, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. When butter is melted add the flour and cook on medium heat whisking constantly for 1 minute. Add milk, cream, and nutmeg, cook until thickened whisking often.

SCALLOPED POTATOES

14 potatoes peeled and sliced 1/16 inch thick

1 large onion sliced so thin you can basically see thru the slices

1 cup finely chopped parsley ( you want to use curly parsley because it works better with the garlic, flavour thing )

14 by 9 baking dish

cooking spray

Spray the baking dish with the cooking spray. Neatly put a layer of potatoes in the dish, sprinkle with parsley, repeat until you have 4 layer. Evenly spread the onions over the fourth layer. Continue making layer of potatoes sprinkled with parsley until you have used all the potatoes. The last layer doesn’t get sprinkled with the parsley yet. Pour the sauce evenly pour the bechamel sauce over the potatoes, sprinkle the top with parsley. Bake in a preheated 350 oven for one and a half hours.

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Making Mustard

When I stop and think about it I have been making my own mustard just about my whole adult life. I keep buying different mustards but don’t find most of them strong enough. Yellow hotdog mustard is something I would rather not use except on a hotdog. Even Dijon I find isn’t even close to having the strength I like mustard to have with most things. Right now I have four different mustards in the fridge but I don’t think any do ham any justice. English mustard comes the closest to having the taste I like with ham. Coleman’s is what I keep in the fridge and use for most things like roast pork and sandwiches. Since it’s Easter, and ham is what we are having, it’s time to make my own mustard.

Making mustard is actually a very simple thing to do and I imagine just about everyone has mustard powder in their spice drawer. Growing up my mother would make mustard and it was strong and you knew you were having mustard. Her’s was very simple, mustard powder, water, and a pinch of sugar. There was a problem with it that bugged me when I made it myself. You couldn’t keep it for another day because it dried out quickly, in about two hours it was hard as a rock. It took me a few months to come up with a solution and create the taste I wanted. I have used the same recipe for years, and have even used it to make grainy mustard. Only trick when making grainy mustard is how you treat the mustard seed. You need to crack two teaspoons of seeds in a plastic bag and then soak them in the vinegar for two hours. You don’t change the recipe shown here the mustard seed is just an addition. I find the mustard I make to be perfect with ham and thankfully most of our kids do, and even a couple of grandkids.

This mustard isn’t a wimpy mustard, you will definitely know your having mustard. You can keep it covered in the fridge for a week. The reason it doesn’t go hard is because of the olive oil, but any oil works. You want to make it the day before so all the flavours develope.

3 tablespoons mustard powder

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

1 tablespoon white vinegar

Mix everything together extremely well in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a day before using.

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Easter Family Meal

Our winter blizzard is over so it isn’t going to spoil our family Easter. This Easter meal is really a double family meal as it is also a family birthday supper. As much as I like what we are having I am looking forward to desert as much as the meal. Desert isn’t normally a big deal for me with any meal. There is one desert that I turly think is the perfect desert. Cheesecake, I would actually eat 3 times a day if I could. Normally it wouldn’t be on the menu for Easter if it wasn’t also a birthday supper, lucky me. I think cheesecake is something you don’t mess with and this one my wife made today is traditional and that is exactly what it always should be. Plain cheesecake recipe that is baked, graham cracker crust, then topped with cherry pie filling a half hour before you eat it. Bad part for me is it is in the fridge now and I want to eat it. Will likely drive me a little crazy waiting until Sunday.

Easter family meals seem to go between ham and turkey, this year it’s ham. Actually it’s two butt end portions of the whole ham because one wouldn’t be enough. Family has gotten a little large for just one ham. For us scalloped potatoes is always on the table with ham. Vegetables will be peas and carrots because the little kids are fussy, for the rest of us it’s succotash. Succotash I made the first time about twenty years ago and it has become a family favourite. After everyone has let supper settle a little it will be time for the most important part of the meal, CHEESECAKE.

I will have a small post with something I am making to go with the ham. I know at least 4 others besides myself will like it.

HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE

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A Winter Blizzard In Middle Of April

It’s the thirteenth of April and we are in a winter blizzard. It is snowing and the wind gusts are 80 km/h. The visibility is about 50 yards and zero in the gusts. As strange as it may seem this is not the first time we have had a blizzard in April. Sometimes living here can be trying and this is one of those times. There is a saying ” you don’t have to be crazy to live here but it sure helps “. This blizzard is to last till Friday and they are expecting up to 80 centimeters in some places, hopefully not right here.

The last time we had a blizzard in April in Winnipeg was 1997 so it is not a normal thing. If you want to see what 80 centimeters of snow can do with the winds we have there are lots of pictures of the last one. Google 1997 April blizzard Winnipeg pictures.

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Restaurant Trepidation

Monday we are going to a restaurant for supper. It has been over two years since we have been in a restaurant for supper. It’s a double birthday supper, our granddaughter is six Monday. The other persons birthday isn’t near as important as our granddaughter, which is exactly how he likes it. As much as I am looking forward to sitting down in a restaurant and having a great meal it comes with trepidation. Over two years of wearing a mask everytime we have set foot in any building, has its effect. Only once in that time have I eaten in a restaurant. That time covid was very very low and it was lunch with a friend. Now B2 a is everywhere.

My wife and I are both vaccinated and have had a booster, we have even had covid, still going out to eat feels strange. Guess it is just the effect of time and a concern of safety. Keeping ourselves safe has been a total priority for us. We still sanitize everything we bring into our house, and wear a mask everywhere to keep safe. Even with all we have done we still ended up with covid, thankfully because of the vaccine it was mild. For myself more than my wife the thought of being somewhere without a mask hits a nerve. Will it ruin the supper for me, no, but it slip into my mind it’s wrong. I know it isn’t wrong because of all the safety precautions the restaurants have taken and as a friend put it we now have super immunity. So yes I know just like my lunch with Robbie after a few minutes I will forget about it and just enjoy the fun.

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Chicken Vegetable Soup

Since I have been making fried chicken and chicken wings often I had enough chicken parts to make chicken stock. When I make fried chicken I use a whole chicken and butcher it myself. The backs I keep in the freezer for making stock. The chicken wings I treat the same and the wing tips have their own bag in the freezer. When I have enough I make stock because it is simple and good. Chicken parts in a 350 for an hour and a half. Put them in a stock pot with 3 and 1/2 litres of water. Throw in carrots, celery, onions, bay leaves, and herbs and spices plus my secret ingredient. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and simmer covered for three hours. Strain the stock and when cool refrigerate overnight. Pick all the meat you can from the chicken pieces and keep for the soup. Next day remove all the fat off the stock and your ready to make soup.

The secret ingredient in my stock is something that normally ends up in most people’s trash. When ever we have asparagus I never throw the woody ends you break off in the trash. I have a zip lock bag in the freezer and keep them for stock. Those woody ends give a great flavour to any stock you make.

This soup or any soup is a clean the fridge out soup. With any soup what ever you have can be added. Once you have a great stock then what ever you put in it will work.

3 litres chicken stock

1 and 1/2 cups chicken meat

1 tablespoon butter

1 onion chopped

1 large carrot chopped

2 large ribs celery chopped

1 cup frozen corn

2 tablespoons dry parsley

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup spinach

salt and pepper to taste

Put stock, butter, onion, carrot, celery, chicken meat, corn, and parsley in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a gentle boil and cook covered for 1/2 hour. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper as needed. Add the peas and spinach and cook for another half hour and serve.

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Honey Garlic Meatballs

I had a recipe pop up on google feed the other day and it reminded me of my recipe. I haven’t made this for well over twenty years, which is a shame. The sauce I have used with different things even as a dipping sauce for chicken nuggets, but the meatballs just got forgotten. You can make the whole meal in about forty five minutes or the meatballs can be made a day ahead and reheated in a 350 for 20 minutes. I actually timed myself today and it took me 42 minutes. like most meatball recipes this is very simple.

The amount of garlic I used is what we like, because we really like garlic, so use the amount you like. Remember it’s honey garlic so you want to taste the garlic. This I am going to do as a two part thing because the sauce has many other uses. I am not usually a big fan of thick sauces but this one needs to be thick. The best way I can explain how thick is it should be as thick as liquid honey. Your going to get your hands dirty with this one. A little olive oil on your hands will make it easier to make the meatbaalls.

MEATBALLS

1 pound ground beef

1/3 cup fine breadcrumbs

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon water

Mix everything but the ground beef together in a large bowl. Add the ground beef and mix together well. Form into meatballs about the size of ping pong balls. Bake the meatballs on a foil lined sheet pan with a wire rack in a preheated 350 oven for 30 minutes.

SAUCE

1/2 cup rice vinegar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons liquid honey

5 cloves garlic minced

2 green onions chopped

cornstarch slurry

toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Put everything in a sauce pan, except the cornstarch slurry, and simmer for 10 minutes. Bring the sauce to a gentle boil and thicken with the cornstarch slurry. Add the meatballs, mix well and serve. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

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Bone In Skin On Chicken Breasts

Yes I cooked chicken again, my wife asked for it. As much as I don’t like chicken I do know how to cook it. When I look at any given year I probably cook chicken at least 150 times.

This isn’t so much a recipe it is more a technique that isn’t included in other recipes like this. There are hundreds of recipes for butter and herbs under the skin of chicken breasts and they all miss the most important thing when you’re doing it. Since I don’t like chicken much I do things to enhance the flavour, so butter and herbs is a great thing. If you just put it under the skin like all recipes say it just runs off and doesn’t do much.

So what is my little trick to get more flavour. Take a fork and stab the breast at least twenty times. All the little holes allow the flavour from the butter and herbs to get into the breast. This also keeps the chicken breasts moist. This I keep really simple because that was the mood I was in. Use the herbs and spices you like.

2 bone in skin on chicken breasts each stabbed 20 times with a fork

1 slice of butter from a pound block 1/8 inch thick. If you have sticks that would be 4 slices

1 teaspoon chopped rosemary

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon tarragon

salt and pepper to taste

Cut the slice of butter in half and top each piece with half of the rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, and tarragon. Salt and pepper both sides of the breasts, slide the butter under the skin of each breast. Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 1 hour.

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