Loaded Baked Potato Soup to Keep Us Cosy

We’re in the first peak of tax season so quick meals are key.  And given how cold and snowy it’s been, comfort food is a definite must.  We’re lucky it’s not as bad as the winter in the midwest last winter but you get to a point that cold is cold.

I’ve seen several pins and references to loaded baked potato soups.  The idea really sang to me so I thought I’d come up with my own recipe for this soup.

I cubed up a couple of red skin potatoes and covered them with homemade chicken stock.  Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until the potatoes are tender and cooked.

Loaded potato soup 1 2015

In a separate skillet cook up some streaky bacon, scallions, garlic, mushrooms, and thyme.  To hold up in the soup the bacon needs to be on the crispy side.

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Once the potatoes are cooked through use an immersion blender to blend the potatoes until they are smooth.  Sprinkle a teaspoon or two of red pepper flakes into the soup.

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Add a cup of cream and the bacon mixture and warm through again.  Season with salt and pepper.

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Top with shredded cheese, sour cream, and some chives.

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A good stick to your ribs soup!  It was even better the next day with the flavour of the red pepper flakes really coming through.  And it did the trick for pushing back winter.

 

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Cuban Sandwiches and Getting Introduced to Parenting

Watching the movie Chef reminded me of how much our daughter loves Cuban sandwiches.  It also brought me back to her seventh birthday party.  My kids were the first kids I met in a relationship, a whole new ball game. 

They always say that you should wait to meet the kids but we didn’t.  My husband and I knew right away we had something and I met the kids pretty quickly as a friend.  Though we have very bright kids, they knew I wasn’t fly by night even though our son was 3 1/2 and our daughter was just shy of her 7th birthday.  Aside from the fact that I didn’t want things screwed up because I recognised I found the one, I really didn’t want the kids to get screwed up if the adults went south.  Obviously it didn’t play out that way.  🙂

I was very lucky I met them at that age, I still got to do story time at bedtime, fort building with pillows, and the kids birthday parties.  The first birthday party was about 6 weeks into the relationship so I was nervous.  Do I get her something, what do I get her, small gift, big gift? I found her a craft sewing kit that allowed her to make dolls clothes.  She loved it.  🙂 Plus we weren’t at the drop off phase of birthday parties so there was going to be a boatload of people to meet.  I had met a few people in my husband’s circle but with parents and kids we probably had about 30 people in the house. 

When I got to the party I asked what I could do for help and I was tasked with making the Cuban sandwiches.  Great, never made them before and these were my daughter’s favourite.  No pressure!  I managed it and we all had fun with the party, along with many more.  We did have some trip ups with birthday parties.  We made the mistake having 8 girls sleepover for our daughter’s 8th birthday.  Don’t ever do that.  Ever.  Luckily our windows didn’t crack with the continuous high pitched screeches. 

For old times sake I wanted to make the sandwiches for the kids before they went off to overnight camp.  Had to get good food into them!  Normally we buy roast pork along with the other ingredients but I wanted to make it special.  I used this roast pork recipe as the base with slight adjustments. 

This is a good recipe for the weekend as it takes a bit of time. 

Cuban sandwiches 1 2014

For the marinade I mixed 3/4 cup orange juice, juice of half a lime, 1/2 a tablespoon of ground cumin, 1/2 tablespoon of dried oregano, a tablespoon of olive oil, 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes, 1/2 a cup of chicken stock, and half a small onion finely chopped.  Mix well.

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I bought a pork shoulder that was just over a pound.  Season with salt and pepper and pierce the meat with a knife on both sides to allow the marinade to really flavour the meat.  Marinate a half hour on each side.

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I don’t know that we can get Cuban rolls round here, I’ve never seen them but my husband made ciabatta bread for this.  This was the best batch so far that we’ve baked.

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Roast the pork at 325F/165C.  Keep it covered for 45 minutes than uncover and continue cooking until the internal temp is 150F/65C and let it rest for at least 10 minutes.  Then it’s time to assemble the sandwiches.  Slice the ciabatta and lay it out.  Spread mustard of your choice onto the bread.  I like using the garlic stone mustard.  Layer the ingredients starting with swiss or jarlsberg, then the roast pork.  Then spoon some of the garlic and onion from the cooked roast over the pork.  Add pickle then the ham.

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Butter the outside of the sandwiches and either cook them in a panini press or on an iron cast griddle using and iron cast press.  Press down on the sandwiches as they cook.  Cook until the sandwiches are about half the starting size, they are golden, and the cheese is melted.  Serve immediately.

Cuban sandwiches 10 2014

After making this I don’t think I can just buy roast pork again.  It is so much better homemade and the citrus with the garlicky heat is wonderful with the rest of the ingredients. 

 

Homemade Sausage Ravioli with Arrabiata Sauce

For Father’s Day we like to cook my husband dinner.  Just like they do for me for Mother’s Day, we come up with a menu and the kids help out with the food prep.  It was such a gorgeous weekend.  We finally got some tennis in.  We managed to get a few volleys back and forth so we felt good about that.  Plus we made a dent in the garden chores.

For my birthday my kids had given me a ravioli form so I wanted to try it out.  I need to practice with it but I did make homemade sausage ravioli and as my husband loves spicy sauces I did an easy arrabiata sauce.  This meal did take a few hours so it is definitely a weekend deal.

I started with the ravioli stuffing as it had to cool before mixing it with cheese and stuffing the pasta.  Finely chop half a cup of onion and 4 cloves of garlic.  I also grabbed thyme from the garden.

Sausage Ravioli 1 2014

In a skillet heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil and saute the garlic, onion, and a couple of teaspoons of fresh thyme.  After the onion has softened add 1/2 a lb of Sweet Italian sausage or Hot Italian sausage.  Whatever you have on hand.  Add 1/3 a cup of nice red wine.  Cook until the meat is cooked.

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Set aside to cool.  Prep the homemade pasta and let it rest.  Once the sausage has cooled mix in half a cup of ricotta cheese and half a cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  After the pasta has rested roll it out in sheets.  Place one sheet on the ravioli mold and create the dents.

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Fill with the sausage mixture.

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Coat with beaten egg. Place another sheet over the sausage mixture and then roll over the pasta.  I struggled with this bit.  I had to use a pasta cutter to separate the individual raviolis.  And it was a struggle to keep the air out.

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Chill the ravioli in the fridge until you are ready to cook them.  For the sauce saute onion and garlic in olive oil.

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Add 1/2 a cup of the same red wine used for the sausage.  Add crushed or diced tomatoes.  I could have used a 14 oz can but I used a 28 oz can and it was a bit much but my husband loves sauce so it didn’t go to waste!  Bring to a simmer and add a few teaspoons of red pepper flakes as well as salt and pepper to taste.

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Add a handful of basil near the end of cooking to the dish.  Start cooking the ravioli at this point in boiling salted water as it only needs to cook for about 4 minutes.  Once it is cooked add it to the sauce.

Sausage Ravioli 9 2014It knocked our son’s socks off but we all loved the simple sauce with the ravioli.  And we got to eat outside and enjoy the lovely evening.

Siracha Lime Chicken For Some Salad Daze…

A sure sign of spring for us is when the farmer’s market opens up outside.  Despite the overcast skies and two women “entertaining” us with folk songs there was an energy in the air and a happiness to see everyone again.  The market had loads of local meats that I snapped up for future dinners.  Fresh chicken isn’t in season yet, we’ll have to wait a few more weeks but I’ll be stocking up as I need the bone for chicken stock.

Our dogs were super excited to head over there.  They remember the smells, the water bowls, and if they are lucky the dog treats.  They are more than happy for me to take my time figuring out what to buy.  There is one booth that loves dogs.  The woman loves to take pictures to post on her Facebook page.  I think there are more pictures of dogs than her chutney!

I came across a recipe for chicken skewers that used honey, siracha, and lime.  I thought this would be perfect for a salad.  This is my take on that recipe.  The prepping and the cooking is less than half an hour.  How long you marinate for is up to you.

For the marinade I added 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, 3 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of honey, a couple of tablespoons of lime juice, 2 tablespoons of siracha sauce, salt and pepper to taste, fresh chopped cilantro, and some red pepper flakes.  The recipe called for garlic and I spaced on that.  Next time I’ll add some.  Mix it well then add the chicken breasts to marinate.

Siracha chicken 1 2014

When you are ready to put everything together fire up the grill and grill the chicken.  I threw together a quick salad of greens, bok choi, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.

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When the chicken is done slice it and top the salad with it and a bit of shredded cheese.  I did up a quick dressing of olive oil, lime juice, cilantro leaves, siracha, salt and pepper.

Siracha chicken 3 2014

The bit I would change is to add more siracha and red pepper flakes.  The marinade itself had heat and I didn’t want to scorch the kids but once cooked it wasn’t as spicy.  So I would dial it up so we’d get more of that on the chicken.

English Pickled Onions

Holy moly this month is just zipping by.  I am flat out with Christmas stuff and work.  I miss blogging regularly! So I’m grabbing a few minutes with a quick one.  🙂

My husband and I are fans of the pickled onion and they are very easy to make, just a little time consuming.  When my dad tried these it brought him right back to when he was young in England at his local.  You know when the local was still a local?  Hard to find these days!  I got this recipe from the BBC of all places.  I was surprised they post recipes but I’m glad they did as these really work.

You need to start the day before with peeling the onions.  I buy three kinds, white, red, and yellow.  pickled onions 1 2012

My least favourite bit is the peeling!  I cry every time.  I do wear the fashionable onion goggles.  🙂  Use only fresh firm onions.

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Once they are all peeled then they need to be salted.  Just enough to lightly coat the onions.

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Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside overnight.  In the morning rinse and then drain to dry.  While these are drying I start sterilizing the jars.  The size jars I have for this are 1/2 pint and I usually get enough onions to fill 7 of them.  To sterilize the jars I boil them for 10 minutes.  The vinegar mixture I use is a liter of malt vinegar, 6 oz of sugar, and several shakes of red pepper flakes.  Heat this in a saucepan and bring to a boil

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I let this simmer as I am packing the onions into the jars.  It’s important the sugar is dissolved.  While packing the jars I put the rings and lids for the cans in the hot water to sterilize further.  I do not boil at this point so I don’t ruin the lids.

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Carefully pour the vinegar mix over the onions.  Fill to just below the top.  Place the lids and rings on and tightened the jars.  This recipe does not need to be processed like jam or stock.  Just put in a dark cool spot.  They will be ready in two weeks.

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These are great as snacks and are wonderful with a cheese plate or a ploughman’s lunch.