Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung at UNBC

A daffodil outside the building I work in, at the University of Northern British Columbia. For more photos of UNBC’s beautiful campus, go to the Flickr group pool here

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Slow-Cooker Beef Stew

slow-cooker beef stew

Slow-Cooker Beef Stew

(Makes enough to fill large slow-cooker and serve 6 people)

1 small onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
2-3 medium carrots, peeled & chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 large bakers or white potatoes, cut into 1 inch square pieces
2 inside round marinating steaks, sliced into 1 inch square chunks
1  900 mL container beef stock
2 cups hot tap water (to cover ingredients in crockpot)
1 packet beef stock powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp herbs de provence (or a mix of rosemary, oregano, sage, basil, thyme)
a few grinds each freshly ground pepper & sea salt

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup cold water
seasonings to taste

– Place chopped onions, celery, carrots, garlic, and potatoes in bottom of crock pot and add chopped beef
-sprinkle with garlic powder, salt & pepper, and herbs de provence, mix to coat vegetables and beef evenly
-Pour in beef stock
-Put 2 cups hot tap water in a glass measuring cup, dissolve the beef stock powder into it and pour over vegetable-beef mixture to just cover everything
-Cook on high for 6 hours
-10 minutes before eating: mix the flour into the cold water to form a smooth paste with a fork (no lumps)
-pour the flour paste slowly into hot stew, stirring to mix it in
-let it cook with the lid on for 10 minutes to thicken

Back to my heritage: Perogies

decorated

I remember going to my Ukrainian Grandma’s house for lunch with my mom, and there would always be a 12-course meal of homemade donuts, cake, tea, creamed chicken, borcht, fresh kubasa (garlic sausage), and homemade perogies – cottage cheese, cheddar/bacon, and sometimes blueberry perogies too.

I got ambitious last night and decided to make perogies all on my own. I have made them before, but always as an assistant “filler”. Turns out, it’s not that hard. Especially if you halve the recipe like I did. It took about an hour from start to finish, including boiling the potatoes and it made about 24 perogies, or enough for four people’s lunch/dinner.

Modified from original recipe at AllRecipes.com : Grandma’s Polish Perogies

Cheddar-Bacon & Onion Perogies

(makes approx. 24 perogies)

Dough:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 Large egg
  • 2 Tbsps vegetable oil

Filling:

  • 2 large (or 3 medium) baker’s potatoes, peeled and cubed  (use starchy potatoes)
  • 3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 onion. chopped very finely
  • 1/4 cup Real bacon bits (or cooked bacon, chopped into bits)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder  (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper (to taste)

Making the Dough:

1. In a large bowl, combine flour & salt, mix well.

2. Melt butter in microwave in glass measuring cup, on high for 20 seconds or so.

3. Add sour cream to the melted butter and stir well. Add the egg and vegetable oil and mix well.

4. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredient’s bowl. Stir until a dough forms. Knead a few times and form into a ball. The dough should be slightly sticky. Cover with damp dish towel and set aside while you do the potatoes.

Making the Filling:

5. Peel, cube and boil potatoes until tender (you are basically making mashed potatoes). Drain, run under cold water and drain again. Mash the potatoes in the pot. Set aside to cool while you grate the cheddar and chop up the bacon and onions. Add the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onions, bacon and cheddar to the mashed potatoes and mix well.

Assembly:

6. Divide dough into two equal sized balls. Roll out one of the balls on a lightly floured counter. Lightly flour the rolling pin just enough so it doesn’t stick to the dough  (but not too much or else the edges won’t seal). Roll out to about 1/8″ thickness (you want it fairly thin or else  the perogies will be tough).

7. Take a drinking glass or round cookie cutter (3″-31/2″ in diameter), flour the cutting surface and cut out circles from the dough. Try to make them as close together as possible.

8. Take each circle and put a rounded teaspoon of filling in the middle. Fold the dough in half, pinch the edges together along the edge one way, and then go back along and pinch again to make sure it’s sealed completely. You can wet the edges with your finger dipped in water if you find they are not sticking. Roll out the other ball of dough and repeat. (There will be some remnants of dough when you are done cutting, and you can maybe roll it out again, but the perogies tend to get tougher and not stick together when you use this dough.)

9. Place them spaced out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper. Freeze them on the cookies sheet until frozen solid and then store in a Ziploc Freezer bag until ready to cook.

Cooking:

Boil a large pot of salted water. Drop perogies in one by one. Boil until they all float. Drain and eat. My favorite toppings are bacon bits, green onions and sour cream.

cutout

Homemade Perogies

Blueberry Filling:

2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
2 Tbsp Cornstarch
2 Tbsp Sugar
pinch cinnamon

Mix above together and place 1 teaspoon of filling in perogies. May want to use a slightly larger circle to cut the dough with. Pinch to make sure they are sealed. Boil as usual and top with homemade whipped cream and icing sugar sprinkled overtop.

Summer Breeze

Lavender fields forever

Lavender flowers at the UBC Campus.

Pork Fajitas with Mango Salsa

Pork Fajitas with Mango Salsa

photo by cookie_banana (me) on Flickr

I had some leftover Atualfo Mango (the orange skinned ones, but you can use the green and red ones) and was inspired by Photograzing contributors and the Fruit Salsas so I decided to make something different.

Pork Fajitas

(makes 4 fajitas)

3 Lean Pork Chops or Pork Tenderloin equivalent amount, sliced into thin strips 1 1/2 inches long
1 tsp Olive or Canola Oil
2 tbsp Fajita or Taco Seasoning (or 1 packet)
1 small Sweet Red Pepper, sliced thinly
5 Mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder

2 cups White or Brown Rice, prepared

4 Large Whole-Wheat Tortilla Wraps

Mango Salsa (recipe below)

In medium frying pan, add olive oil to pan and saute pork strips on medium high heat for 5 minutes. Add taco seasoning, red pepper and mushrooms and garlic powder,  and cook another 3 minutes or until pork is cooked through. 

Put wraps on a plate, pile a few spoonfuls of  rice down the middle, then pork, then mango salsa. Fold up the bottom, and tuck one side over the middle and roll to wrap up. Enjoy! 

Mango Salsa

2 Atualfo Mangoes, peeled, sliced and diced very small
1 Sweet Orange Pepper, diced finely
3 Tbsp Thai Sweet Red Chili Sauce
Juice of 1 Lime
1 Tbsp White Sugar
Green Onions
1 Tbsp chopped Fresh Cilantro (Coriander)

Mix all ingredients well and let sit in fridge for 10 minutes to let the flavours mix. Use to top fajitas or eat with tortilla chips.

Strawberry Shortcakes with a Chocolate Twist!

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes

photo by cookie_banana (me) on Flickr

How can you improve upon a classic like strawberry shortcake? Add Chocolate!

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake Dessert

2 cups fresh Strawberries, washed & sliced thinly

Whipped Cream:

-in a chilled bowl, beat on medium speed-  1 cup whipping cream with 1 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tsp sugar until semi-stiff peaks form

Double Chocolate Sour Cream Scones (recipe is below)

Slice scone in half, top with dollop of whipping cream, then pile on strawberries and top with the top half of scone. 

Double Chocolate Sour Cream Scones

(makes 8 large scones or 16 small ones)

1 cup All Purpose Flour
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/3 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

5 Tbsp Chilled Butter, cut into small slices (must use butter and it must be cold)

1 Large Egg, beaten lightly
8oz Sour Cream (can use light sour cream or plain yogurt)
1 cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and cocoa. Mix well. Cut in the cold butter pieces with a pastry blender or two knifes until the butter is in tiny chunks the size of pennies.

In another bowl or 4 cup measuring cup, beat egg lightly with a fork, add sour cream and mix well. Add wet mixture to middle of dry mixture. Add chocolate chips and mix until flour mix is just moistened and forms a ball. You may need to add 1-2 Tbsp milk if dough is too dry.  Knead a few times and turn dough ball out onto prepared pan. Press into a flat circle that is 2″ thick. With a sharp knife, cut in four “pie” sections, then cut each section in half again. 

Bake in 400F oven for 15 minutes. Cool on pan.
And here they are:
Double Chocolate Sour Cream Sconesphoto by cookie_banana (me) on Flickr

Homemade Wholewheat Pizza

Homemade Pizza

photo by cookie_banana (me) on Flickr

I make this homemade pizza dough quite often. It is usually quicker than ordering pizza, and is much healthier. The trick is to use instant yeast that rises in the 10 minutes it takes to grate cheese and slice toppings. Leftovers are great for lunch the next day too.
The recipe is similar to my Foccaccia Bread, which you can find here

Wholewheat Pizza Dough

(makes 1 large pizza or two 6″ individual pizzas) 

In a mixing bowl, whisk together until dissolved:

  • 1 Tbsp. white sugar
  • 1 package (about 2 tsp.) instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm (not hot) tap water

Then add, mixing with wooden spoon:

  • 1 cup Wholewheat Flour (or half white /half whole-wheat flour)
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • pinch salt

Mix in with wooden spoon and then your hands to form a ball:

  • another 1 cup to 1-1/2 cup more flour to make a nice dough

Knead 1 minute. Cover bowl with a dampened clean dishtowel or paper towel and let rise in a warm place (I put it on the stove so it gets heat from the oven warming up) about 10 minutes while you get the toppings together.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 

If you have a pizza stone (available from Stokes Kitchen Supply store for ~$14 or Pampered Chef parties for $40) spread about 1 Tbsp cornmeal evenly over stone surface. Or, grease a round pizza shaped cookie sheet with a little olive oil and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp cornmeal (even if it says it is non-stick).

Grate about 1 cup mozzarella or chosen cheese. Slice mushrooms, onions and other toppings. 

Making the dough

photo by cookie_banana (me) on Flickr

Transfer dough to middle of pizza stone/cookie sheet and press to flatten dough until 1 inch thick.  Top with tomato paste or other sauce (You can use pasta sauce but I find it makes the pizza soggy). Then add your meat, mushrooms and other toppings before finishing with the cheese.

Bake in 400F oven for about 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly and the crust is slightly browned on the bottom.

Decorating the Pizza

photo by cookie_banana (me) on Flickr

Topping Suggestions:

Canadian Feast Pizza: tomato paste, black forest ham, mushrooms, crumbled italian sausage, real bacon bits, mozzarella & cheddar cheese

Italian: tomato paste, bottled basil pesto, baby spinach leaves, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses

White Pizza: Alfredo sauce, diced cooked chicken breast, mushrooms, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses

Greek Souvlaki: Jarred Sundried Tomato Pesto (in Pasta Sauce aisle) or tomato paste; diced chicken cooked with oregano, lemon juice and minced garlic; thinly sliced white onions, kalamata olives, fresh diced tomatoes (patted with paper towel to remove moisture), 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese. 

Taco Pizza: Tomato paste mixed with salsa, 1 cup crumbled cooked ground beef with taco seasoning, 1/4 cup black beans (drained well), corn kernels and green onions. Topped with mozza and cheddar cheeses. Top with diced fresh tomato just before serving.