A funny thing has been happening to me lately; I seem to have developed a social life without really realizing that it is happening. Growing up I spent a lot of time at home watching tv or reading all weekend while my sister when out or had her friends over. I was generally ok with this, although when I got older I wanted to go to parties. When I actually went to some parties in high school, I found that I didn’t like them and I didn’t really have a good time. Same thing goes for going out to bars when I got to university. Sure, I had some fun nights out. Those fun nights were mostly at the bars I went to in Northern Ireland though, and when I came back to Canada, I just couldn’t be bothered to go out anymore. Let’s not forget that I was pretty broke so spending $50 on a night out was just not going to happen.
Fast forward a number of years and I was a married 27 year old, living in New Hampshire and our only friends were our next door neighbours. Thankfully they liked spending time with us, but quite often it was just me and Simon. Night after night. We moved away from Laurie and Steve, back to Canada a couple years later. We were back in Waterloo but any friends we had there in university had moved away and any friends from high school were still in Barrie or had moved to other cities. This meant lots and lots of nights at home watching tv, randomly interspersed with a rare night out.
Now, six or so years later, we have a pretty good circle of friends. Some are through Simon’s work, some are old friends we have gotten in touch with again and some have come from being a food blogger. One of those friends, Jenny aka The Brunette Baker, is having a giveaway on her blog and invited some of us other bloggers to join in on the fun. With this giveaway, I am celebrating the birthday and friendship of a lively, fun, kind person, whom I now call my friend. Happy Birthday Jenny!!! xoxo
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Add comment February 24, 2014
I really want to like using a slow cooker but I just don’t. I’ve tried lots of different recipes and there are very few that I don’t mind using the crock pot for. I think the crock pot is great when you have some meatballs you want to keep warm in a bbq sauce for a pot luck and I do like using the crock pot for chili. Chicken breasts come out dry and stringy if they are cooked too long and the braising liquid never really cooks down so you end up with a watery sauce instead of one that is thick and richly flavoured.
Most dishes that are made in slow cookers often benefit from the meat being browned before being put in the slow cooker. It is often a vital step to get great flavour in your dish but you have one more big pan to clean. If you use a cast iron enamelled pot, you brown the meat and cook everything in the same pot. It can even go in the oven. I don’t recommend browning ground beef in the cast iron pot though; it is just too heavy to lift and drain the excess fat off.
I made one of m favourite recipes last week, Chicken Cacciatore, and because I was going to be out of the house most of the day I wasn’t comfortable leaving the oven on while I wasn’t home. I made a huge batch of Chicken Cacciatore with 20 big chicken thighs. I put all the ingredients in the crock pot after I seared the chicken and sauteed the onions and garlic in a frying pan. It cooked in the crock pot for 5 hours but it resemble a very chunky soup and not the thick sauce I was used to. I took the lid off, hoping that it would evaporate but it quickly became evident that this would not happen. All I could do was transfer it all into the cast iron enamelled pot and put it in the oven for 45 minutes with the lid off.
I know that there are devoted fans of slow-cookers and they can be a saviour for weeknight meals. If you will be at home and can monitor the cooking, a cast-iron enamel pot gives you superior results. This is why I always double or even triple recipes so that I can pull a ready cooked meal from the freezer and just thaw it. I prefer to cook once and clean up once and have 2 or 3 meals from the effort.
If you don’t have a cast iron enamelled pot you might be thinking that you can’t affort a d $300 Le Creuset pot, like you see on cooking shows. I am not Ree Drummond so I don’t have half a dozen (or more) Le Creusets. I don’t even have one. I have a no-name 5 quart pot that I got as a wedding gift nearly 10 years ago that likely cost around $50 or $60. I see in our local flyers that the KitchenAid and Cuisinart brand cast iron-enamelled pots go on sale almost weekly. They usually range from $30 for the 3 quart pot to $80 for the 7 quart pot. I definitely have my eye on the 7 quart one, but that will have to wait so I can save up for it. If you don’t have one at all and are looking to buy one, I would recommend going with the 7 quart pot if you intend to do a lot of large batch cooking like I do.
One of my other favourite dishes to make in my cast iron pot is a monster size batch of spaghetti sauce. It is a staple in our house because it is a favourite of his lordship, the four year old. Timothy would prefer to have that every night. Maybe every other night because he would want ham on the alternate days, with lasagna on special occasions.
If you do get yourself a cast iron enamelled pot and fill it to the brim with your favourite meal, remember to lift with your knees!
- 12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large leek (or 1 medium onion), sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb of cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tsp herbe de provence (or dried thyme)
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
- ¾ cup 35% cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a large cast iron enamelled pot (I use a 5 quart pot), heat the olive oil over a medium heat.
- Generously season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Brown the chicken thighs in the pot in batches. 12 chicken thighs will likely be 3 batches. Place the brown chicken thighs on a plate while you cook the other chicken thighs.
- Cut the green end off the leak and the root tip. Slice the leek lengthwise and wash any sand out from in between the layers. Slice the leek into thin half moons.
- When the chicken thighs are browned, turn down the heat and add the leeks, minced garlic and mushrooms. Cook until the leek has softened and the mushrooms have started to cook down a little, about 5 minutes.
- Add a big pinch of salt and pepper and the dried herbs.
- Add the white wine and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Add in the chicken broth and return the chicken thighs to the pot.
- Put the pot in the preheated oven with the lid on and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. You can cook it entirely on the stovetop, whatever is your preference.
- After it has been cooking in the oven for 45 minutes, put the pot back on the stovetop and remove the lid. Add the cream and cook over a medium heat for 20 minutes to a half hour with the lid off. You are looking for the sauce to be the consistency of a thick gravy or a rich cream of mushroom soup.
- Serve over a mix of mashed regular potatoes and sweet potatoes.
1 comment February 3, 2014
One of the great things about being an adult is that nobody will give you shit for eating crepes with sugary pears and whipped cream for dinner. I have been known to also have a bowl of cereal for dinner or, like today, for lunch. Sure, there is some self recrimination that may happen but if you have homemade crepes, or my personal favourite, waffles with strawberries and whipped cream, self recrimination will be easily usurped by great satisfaction.
I have been making these crepes a lot lately. Sometimes I’ve served them as dessert with different fruit and lots of whipped cream or dulce de leche and sometimes I whip them up for a lazy brunch. We had these on Christmas morning for our brunch and I made them the night before. They reheated beautifully. You wouldn’t have even known that I made them the day before.
I haven’t been feeling pretty low lately and making these simple little crepes have given me some satisfaction that I can still do something right. Maybe it is just the winter blues but I think it is more likely related to career issues, or lack thereof. I feel pretty lost most days since my son is at school and I have a lot of time on my hands. I have been job hunting and there are a couple positions that I’ve applied for that I would love to get. My resume has been sent off via email so now I just wait and hope that I get an interview.
As I try to find a job outside of the home I still have plans for this blog. I did have a new name chosen for a complete redesign but it turned out that someone had a name that was way too close already. I was almost ready to launch the new design when we did a little extra searching just to make sure it was good when we found the other site. Anyhow, I’ve been having a little bit of a pity party about it for the past month or so because I can’t come up with a new name that I like. I’m finding that it is a very personal decision and that I am definitely over thinking it.
I know I will figure out a new name for the blog soon and I hope you all will like it. I may not have a huge readership but if you are reading this now, just know that you are truly appreciated by me.
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 6-8 pears, peeled and cored
- ¼ cup water
- Cut the peeled and cored pears into eighths and set them aside
- Pour the sugar into a large saucepan. Pour the water around the perimeter of the sugar and heat on the stove at a medium-high heat.
- Swirl the pan occasionally and the sugar will start to melt.
- If the sugar isn’t melting evening feel free to use a spoon. Any crystallization that may occur will dissolve when you add the pears and their juice is released.
- Keeping stirring or swirling the pan around to keep the sugar moving when the colour begins to darken. It could take up to 10 minutes for the sugar to fully caramelize.
- When the sugar has liquified and turned a deep amber, add in the pears and cook for 5-10 minutes.
- Allow the pears to cool slightly and serve or store in the fridge for up to a week. You could also freeze the pears in the caramel syrup.
- 1 cup light buckwheat flour*
- 2 cups milk
- 4 eggs
- pinch of salt
- Whisk together all the ingredients in a large glass measuring cup or a bowl until there are no lumps.
- Let the batter sit at room temperature for an hour before frying the crepes.
- Heat a small non-stick frying pan (use a purpose-made crepe pan if you have it) and brush it with melted butter.
- Ladle out about a ¼ cup of the batter and lift the pan up and swirl the batter around so that it coats the pan. If the batter is a little thick then add a tablespoon or so of milk to thin it out a little bit.
- When the top of the batter looks dry, flip the crepe and cook it on the other side for another 30 seconds or so. It will take about a minute to cook on the first side. Pile them on a plate as the crepes finish frying.
- If your pan is too hot, the batter won’t spread out in the pan. Adjust the heat accordingly if this happens.
- Butter the pan before frying each crepe.
- Serve right away or wrap the crepes piled on the plate in plastic and keep them in the fridge overnight to serve later.
- Makes approximately 20 crepes
Add comment January 27, 2014