Archive for the ‘Cookbook challenge’ Category

The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Pioneer Woman Cooks Meatballs

Taste Level: 9
Level of Difficulty: 3
Time it took from start to finish: 1 1/2 hours
Tricky items to procure: None
Basic ingredients: Ground Beef, quick oats and ketchup
Best Deal: Grain fed beef from Wholefoods was on sale. Only $3.79 for a pound and a half!

This is one of the simplest and tastiest meatballs recipes I have ever read. I got a great deal on the meat (see above) and I had everything else on hand (which I believe is a first). Her food reminds me of my mom’s – simple, 50’s style cooking. Definitely great comfort food.

All rolled up.

The recipe is simple:

Mix beef with onions, quick oats, milk and salt and pepper.

Make into balls.

Let set for 30 mins.

Coat in flour and than fry to brown.

Mix ingredients of bbq sauce on top (ketchup, vinegar, sugar etc).

Once balls are brown, bake for 20 mins with sauce.

Eat and enjoy.

Next time, I would definitely double the recipe and make this for a potluck or dinner party.

Cooked to perfection.

I really enjoyed using this cookbook. There are step-by-step pictures that made the whole experience so much easier than a normal cookbook. The food tasted like it had been made many times before by Ree Drummond and that it was made with love.

One happy chap.

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The Pioneer Woman Cooks.

“Simple, Perfect Chili” p.82

This Chili recipe is perfect. For years I have been making chili the way my family has always made it – filled with a variety of beans, corn, and whatever else we feel like throwing in the pot. Ree Drummond’s recipe brings Chili back to its roots. Her basic recipe does not call for a lot of ingredients, so not only is this dish delicious, it’s also economical. I made her basic recipe but there were a few things I had to alter. The biggest change I made was using ground turkey instead of ground beef. I know true chili lovers are rolling their eyes right now but I didn’t have a choice! The butcher was completely sold out of ground beef and offered me ground turkey instead – boy was that a good move! Ground turkey worked so well in this recipe and was incredibly tasty. The few other changes that I made were as follows (though many were suggested by Ree in the book): I added sautéed onions, a half of a can of diced tomatoes, Tabasco and one can of pinto beans.

Cooking the chili!

Everything about this recipe was simple and straight forward. The hardest part was waiting for the chili to simmer for one hour. Murph read a magazine to occupy his time.


After one hour of simmering, I was supposed to add the masa mixture to the pot (to thicken the chili and to add more flavor). I could not find masa (and to be honest, I’m still a little unsure as to what it is) so instead I used a little bit of corn starch mixed with water to thicken the meal. After another 10 minutes of simmering, I topped the bowls with a little cheese and sour cream, and sliced a few pieces of baguette. My husband and I sat down to eat. After our first mouthful we both agreed . . . this is our new go-to recipe for chili!

Dinner is served.

Not only is the chili recipe great, but this book definitely has a bunch of other recipes that I would like to try including Chicken Pot Pie, Scones, and Pancakes.

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Lulu Powers: Food to Flowers

Lulu Powers: Food to Flowers

When I first heard about Lulu Powers, she was described to me as “the British version of Martha Stewart”.  I perked up over that sentence for two reasons.  One: I am caught in this crazy love affair with British talk shows and celebrities (BBC Canada is one of my favourite channels) and two: Martha Stewart terrifies and fascinates me with her “good things”, perfect ways and delicious recipes.  So flipping through Lulu’s entertainment book gave me great, simple  ideas on hosting some awesome summer dinners.

I decided to make her Lahmajoons on page 214.  Lahmajoons are Armenian pizzas, and I love trying new ethnic recipes.  And the best part was that I didn’t have to make dough from scratch or hunt for hard to find ingredients – they were all at my neighbourhood grocery store just begging to be bought and cooked.

And so here I go:

I am not a food stylist, but here are just some of the easy to find ingredients I used.

The recipe lists that the onions and green peppers be finely chopped – and mine were not.  Remember watching those infomercials for the Magic Bullet or SlapChop and thinking nothing much of them?  Well, this was the perfect time to have one handy.  So my veggies were a bit on the larger side.  The smell of freshly chopped mint was amazing, as was the parsley (which was fresh from the garden), but I didn’t add the cilantro because I’m not a fan of it, and went a bit heavier on the other two to make up for the lack of third herb.  The recipe also suggested Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, but I checked the difference between this and the generic one I had on hand and there wasn’t anything really different.  I think that as long as your seasoned salt has no MSG you should be merrily on your way to making this dish.

*Technically you shouldn’t have MSG in anything you consume, so there’s my public service announcement of the day.

Here are all the ingredients in the bowl. I purposely added more mint and parsley, but the marinara was clearly an accident. I swear there's ground lamb underneath all the sauce.

The next stage was the best part.  My girl Lulu says to get into the meat with your hands and really work all the ingredients in.  What a great way to unwind after a long day at work!  Squishing your hands into this meat concoction is a great stress reliever – and the awkward squirty sounds of the mixture makes for a few chuckles in the kitchen.

The lamb mixture all ready to go. Note the not-very-finely-chopped green peppers and onions...

I tested out the lamb by making a small patty and frying it in a pan to see if it needed more seasoning, and it was just right.  So onto prepping the tortillas – I opted for small, whole wheat ones to add a bit more nutritional value, and they were the right size for individual lahmajoons.  I unfortunately left my silicone mat at my parents’ house, so I sprayed my cookie sheet with a bit of oil so they wouldn’t stick.

Ready for their 15 minutes of fame in the oven....

If you like your tortilla crispy, then having them on the pan like this gives it that crunch – but you also need to watch it!  My first two were a bit…tanned around the edges.  So the next two I put on another cookie sheet with foil and baked for about 12 minutes.  These pizzas weren’t as crisp, and I actually preferred the first ones.  I finally figured out that 13 minutes on the cookie sheet without foil brought the best texture.  So depending on how you like your pizza “crust”, let them hang out in the oven or take them out sooner.

The finished product - dig in!

And the final verdict: delicious!  I was a bit worried about my veggies being too big, but they added a nice contrast to the meat.  The seasoning had a little bit of kick and was very aromatic, kind of like a unfolded, Middle Eastern-inspired taco.  I garnished mine with a few baby spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes from the garden, a wedge of lemon and a glass of shiraz.  A perfect way to end a balmy summer evening.

Martha Stewart, eat your heart out!

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Lulu Powers: Food to Flowers

Lulu Powers: Food to Flowers

I was very excited to be cooking something from Lulu Powers’ cookbook/entertaining book because as those of you who have paged through it will know, it’s full of easy ideas and recipes that just speak to me. Lulu Powers Food to Flowers is exactly my kind of book. No mess, no fuss, just good easy food.

About to flip the chicken over and brush more BBQ sauce on.

So since I knew this weekend would be a busy one since I was moving and my family was visiting from out of town, I wanted to make something quick and easy that did not require lots of ingredients which I would have left over and then have to move with me. So I settled on the Aunt Patti’s  BBQ Chicken.

Delicious BBQ chicken in a snap.

The recipe couldn’t be simpler. All you need is, of course, chicken, bbq sauce, finely ground espresso beans and a whole heap of garlic. Once the chicken has cooked and the chicken skin has had a chance to get nice and brown and crispy, I just mixed the sauce with the garlic and espresso beans and brushed it on both sides and let each side melt and get nice and caramelized and then I enjoyed!

Simple as pie! (Or in this case, as Aunt Patti’s BBQ Chicken!)

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Lulu Powers: Food to Flowers

Lulu Powers: Food to Flowers

In a way, I think the whole point of this blog (for me anyway) is to keep me motivated in the kitchen. To keep trying new things. But, every once in a while, a recipe will defeat you. Let’s note that this isn’t the fault of the recipe’s in any way shape or form. Rather, it’s the fault of the cook’s — who will be taking great note of the lessons making Lulu Powers’s Sticky Buns, from the gorgeous cookbook, Lulu Powers: Food to Flowers.

So, a number of things went wrong. The first of which being my camera died so I have no photos from the actual day of cooking. Next, I figured a blender could stand in for a food processor when it came to mixing the dough, and let me tell you, um, no. Lastly, whole wheat flour isn’t really a good substitute for Sticky Buns — it’s really too heavy.

Sticky Buns: A Day Late & A Dollar Short

Sticky Buns: A Day Late & A Dollar Short

Annywaaay. Holiday Monday started off so well. I had remembered to buy 99% of the ingredients and the one that I did skip — the pumpkin pie spice (I subbed with Cocoa, and used just a bit more cinnamon), didn’t seem to make that much of a difference to the recipe. The dough was interesting. Lulu calls for cottage cheese and buttermilk, and the first set of directions worked well in the blender. But then by instruction #2, everything started to fall apart. When I was dumping the flour into the blender, my RRHB said, “That’s a really bad idea you know, it’s not wet enough for a blender.” Whizzzz. Whizzz. Whizzzz. Cough. Splutter. Odd-smelling smoke (just kidding). Yes, he’s right, it’s not wet enough for a blender. Cue me scraping every last bit of goopy, half-mixed dough into a bowl and doing the rest by hand. It wasn’t all that bad.

Up next was rolling out the dough. Hence the need for a rolling pin. Which we don’t have at the cottage. Cue an excellent suggestion from my cousin to use a wine bottle. And it worked. The rest of the process went sort of as planned, until I discovered that I didn’t have the right sized muffin tin or waxed paper (to put on the bottom so it doesn’t make a mess of your tin!). Because it would have been a disaster to clean up (keep in mind I’ve now got dishes, a collapsed blender, flour, ingredients and about a half-dozen bowls spread around our very tiny cabin kitchen), I skipped making the sauce — there can only have been so many instances of things going wrong.

Sticky Buns Look Better From The Top

Sticky Buns Look Better From The Top

However, some parts of my process went very well. For example, the smell of the buns cooking was absolutely divine. It was rich, yummy and absolutely made my mouth water. And despite the fact that the whole wheat flour made the entire bun feel more like bread than a sweet treat, they actually tasted pretty darn good. When my RRHB ate one he was surprised, actually, that they tasted so good — he even managed to convince my incredibly picky 4-year-old nephew to try a piece, and even he agreed they were delicious. So, I think that’s a real testament to Lulu’s recipe — even when you muck it up as much as I did, which was A LOT, you still end up with something edible, sweet and absolutely delicious when eaten the next day for your coffee break.

The Last Sticky Bun Standing

The Last Sticky Bun Standing

“Sticky Buns,” pg. 60-62

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Jamie's Food Revolution

I have been a long time fan of Jamie’s TV shows. I’ve always loved his bare bones, accessible approach to high class cooking. Unlike some celebrity chefs I don’t feel intimidated or scared off by his dishes. Yet despite my long time fandom, I have never cooked one of his recipes! Until now that is. Like my fellow food challenger Jason, I am in no way a chef, or a cook, or even mildly competent in the kitchen. Thankfully for me my girlfriend, Melissa, is a fantastic cook! Combine her culinary skills with Jamie’s brilliant recipes and only deliciousness can follow!

For my inaugural food challenge I decide to step outside of our comfort zone and try one of his Indian dishes. Indian food, curry especially, has ingrained itself into British cooking so I thought this would be a great way to try something new, but still something quintessentially Jamie. We chose to make his Tikka Masala Chicken, from page 82.

So few ingredients for such a big payoff!

The best thing about this recipe is how pain free it is. The thought of cooking Indian food scared me at first. I had images of foreign spices and vegetables I’d never seen before or hunting through little India for some rare pepper. I couldn’t have been farther from the truth. The dish was accented very simply with onion, garlic, ginger, chile, and topped with cilantro, almonds and yoghurt.

Fry baby fry!

To make it even easier this dish all goes into one pan (Ohhh yeah!). You simply fry up the veggies, add coconut milk, tomatoes, and your chicken, boil and simmer. Voila! If I’d only known how simple it is too make delicious, authentic Indian cuisine! Oh the possibilities!

Nothing says beauty, like a one-pot recipe!

To finish it all off, we served the dish on a bed of basmati rice, with some lovely naan and red wine on the side, lovingly brought over by our friend Josh who gave the dish rave reviews (and took home leftovers). This experience has emboldened me to try more Indian recipes and continue to spread out of my culinary comfort zone. Or I’ll just keep making this one over and over…time will tell.

The Spread.

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Jamie's Food Revolution

There’s little doubt in my mind that Jamie’s Food Revolution is one of my favourite working cookbooks. I’ve tried half a dozen recipes from it, and I often re-do many of them. I haven’t bought store-brand spaghetti sauce in over a year and am constantly trying out new things that eventually make their way into our weekly cooking. However, it was a bit of a special weekend up north (my birthday, shhh) and my RRHB asked me what I wanted for my *special* meal. It took me days and days to decide until I said one morning, “I want spaghetti and meatballs.”

Now, pause for a moment while I explain that I’m actually mainly vegetarian. But lately we’ve been eating locally raised poultry that we buy from a butcher in the city. It’s really the only meat that I eat so our “meatballs” are actually ground chicken and not beef and/or pork. The first time I made this recipe, I did beef meatballs for our friends who came for dinner, and chicken for myself. This time, we just did chicken. I think they’re delicious. However, note that my RRHB and my brother think they’re good but that they don’t exactly taste like the real deal.

Chopping the fresh rosemary

This time around I had fresh herbs from my garden (the recipe calls for rosemary, basil and dried oregano; I used fresh because that’s what I had on hand), two cans of organic tomatoes, and a pound of happy chicken (as I like to call it). We bought whole wheat pasta at the grocery store, but up until about fifteen minutes before we left, I entertained bringing my pasta maker just because it might be fun. In the end it seemed a bit too ambitious for the confines of my grandmother’s cottage kitchen.

Fresh Onion & Cocozelle For The Sauce

For the sauce, I also used up the first of my summer squash, a little cocozelle that I had picked the previous afternoon before we left for up north. The picture here is just after chop-chop-chopping the onions.

Mushing Up The Meatballs

The last time I made the meatballs — and they were a disaster. They were too big and fell apart a little when we tried to fry them. This time, as my RRHB said, he staged an intervention. His were perfectly cylindrical, sized just right, and cooked in no time. By then, my sauce was ready so we put everything in the pot to simmer together. It smelled divine.

That's A Spicy Meatball!

The ideology behind Jamie’s Food Revolution — rediscovering how to cook simple, delicious meals — is utterly vindicated with this recipe. All tolled it took us about 45 minutes to make everything from scratch, with the exception of fresh pasta, and it truly was a delicious birthday feast. Even if it wasn’t technically spaghetti and “real” meatballs. My RRHB (pictured above) was actually much happier than this eating dinner. I can’t recommend this cookbook enough — from the simple, delicious soups to more complex meals like a full roast chicken (at least for me!), there’s something to be said about this movement towards teaching yourself some basics. In the end, the biggest cooking lesson I’ve learned from Jamie is that it doesn’t have to be complicated to be truly mouth-wateringly yummy.

(“Meatballs and Pasta, page 151).
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