Fried Pickerel Cheeks

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It’s not deep fried!

Yes it is.

No. It’s not… its pan fried.

Just because it’s fried in a PAN doesn’t mean it’s not deep fried.

But it’s in a PAN.

But it’s still fried in oil.

Deep fried is when it’s fried in a vat of oil.

Just because it’s fried one side at a time doesn’t mean it’s not deep fried… it’s still fried in oil… hence its deep fried.

There’s nothing deep about pan frying.

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That’s how the insane argument goes at our house. I’m trying to stay away from deep fried foods, pan or deep hot pot of oil. Often there’s a comment in there somewhere about how he’s trying to kill me… the one that loves me so much, feeding me full of fried foods, driving up that cholesterol number to trouble causing levels according to my doctor. But sometimes… like when I’m craving pickerel or pickerel cheeks I can be the one to instigate the frying frenzy at our house, throwing caution to the wind, hiding behind the nutrition value of fish to justify the frying of food.

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Everything tastes better deep fried! P says it like it’s a reason to restrict our food intake to fried foods and sometimes I say the same thing but with a tone of desperation as if to lament not being able to eat all the best tasting foods. It’s not that I disagree with him… it’s just that I have to face the numbers when I get my blood work done and they’re often not pretty. And my doctor doesn’t care that I’m predisposed to high cholesterol and she doesn’t care that this really is the best tasting food.

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I grew up on ‘fried’ pickerel, lightly breaded and fried to golden crispy perfection, the fish tender and flaky has become for me a true comfort food from years and years of eating it that way. Always served up on Christmas Eve though we don’t and have never followed any religious traditions and other times we would fish our meal during weekends spent on boat in the Whiteshell area. Deep fried… or pan fried… pickerel just fits any occasion. And it doesn’t matter if you call it Pickerel or Walleye … we call it the best fish around.

Eating fish this way has ruined me for all other recipes and any battered fish at most restaurants. I could never become accustomed to a thicker batter that finding that it obscures the tender fish with its heaviness. I like it crispy and very lightly breaded and FRIED.

Sometimes when I`m feeling particularly passive aggressive I lightly salt and season the fish with caraway seeds and quickly broil it while I fry up a breaded batch for the rest of the folks in the house. These times are far and few between though, regardless of how much I protest, this is my favourite way to eat fish.

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I`m guessing it will be yours too…. if you dare to fry.

 

(Deep) Fried Pickerel Cheeks

  • 2 lbs of pickerel cheeks rinsed and lightly sprinkled with salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs
  • 1-2 eggs
  • Salt to season the meat

Place the flour, breadcrumbs and eggs each in a separate bowl. Lightly whisk the eggs and then coat the fish first in the flour, then eggs and lastly the breadcrumbs.

Bring a pan of about ½ inch of oil to medium heat and in batches fry the coated fish pieces until golden brown, turning over midway. The fish can also be fried in a deep fryer but that would just feel wrong to us….  This way we can pretend to not be eating ‘deep fried’ food.

Take the fish out of the pan and place on paper towel to absorb the extra grease. Serve while hot with lemon or your favorite tartar sauce.

Enjoy

Sweet Poppy Seed Pasta

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Life seems to be reflecting art this week… see self portrait below.  :)  Or at least that’s the case in my twisted, confused and jumbled perception of things. I’ve had to suck up the last of my vacation time before our fiscal year end and so that means that I’m off work for the next week… Whooo hooo! P isn’t able to take any time off so that also means that I am all alone. Nothing but time to wander around the house, make some carefully planned out decisions about what gets done first. I already have a very long list of things that I’d like to get to that would normally cut into my weekends.

I can get caught up on some baking I want to do for Easter Weekend, I can take pictures, plant my seedlings, write a few blog posts to have handy for when time is lacking; all these plans and then suddenly when I’m on the precipice of all this time… BAM!

 

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I woke up this morning or should I say afternoon… I never sleep THAT much! Feeling as though a truck just ran over me. My head is full of scrambled noodles… :( though my mind has been organizing a list of things to do; covertly my body seems to have programmed a different kind of week. Perhaps it’s the universe’s way of forcing a break? Perhaps it’s a way to force me to nap, pushing aside the guilt of wasting some precious moments to indulge in INDULGENT behaviors.

 

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My week will move in slow motion… I will wander around the house and be lost. I will sleep in. I will nap. I will read a little and read slower. I will cook foods that will make me happy. I will take some pictures. I will still get done most of the things I had planned but I will just get to it all a little slower than usual. Wait a sec… what the hell… This is all starting to sound like a most appropriate mantra for a well-adjusted holiday and not a passive aggressive way to deal with a bug that is invading my body. YIKES… Perhaps it’s more friend than foe!

 

 

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Turning lemons into lemonade… turning foe to friend… and turning a muddled noodle head into the best tasting noodle recipe from my childhood…. YUMMY!

 

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Recipe 

  • 2 servings homemade pasta (and 2 may not be enough… I ate both!)
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh poppy seeds (lightly ground, which I didn’t do)

 

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Once the noodles are cooked take them out of the boiling water, drain and immediately add the butter allowing it to melt. Sprinkle the mixture with sugar while still hot so that the sugar dissolves. Add the poppy seeds and mix. Serve immediately… or eat cold… it doesn’t matter… either way it is pure comfort food that is heavenly!

 

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Follow me on Instagram to see what other beautiful things I’m eating this week!

Vdolky – Czech Donuts – Beignets?

Posted by Pussycat in Sweets | 3 Comments

Dare I say these are just as good as Beignets?  I’ll admit, as much as I try to stay off carbs I can’t help craving these.  One of our favourite things when we were on our trip to New Orleans this past summer were the beignets.  So fluffy, so light, so unbelievably good.  We had one almost every night with a frozen coffee… Okay, one means order which is actually 3 so we split it … most people eat the whole order themselves and don’t share… we shared.  Crazy I know because you could easily eat a half dozen of these on your own without even blinking.. they are highly addictive… Yes, lots of calories but so so good.

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I tried to recreate the beignets a while back and I have to say they did not turn out very well.  Our friends who shared in them hadn’t had beignets so they thought they were good – or they were just being polite but they were very far from the original.  I had looked up lots of recipes.  I even went so far as to go out and buy coconut oil since in New Orleans they use cottonseed oil and I had a hard time finding a way to get my hands on some of that.  Coconut was as close as I could get.

Beignets are finicky, don’t over mix, make sure the temperature of the oil is just right.  Even though it’s baking and not cooking it’s just far too precise for me.  And clearly I’m not that great at following instructions because they just didn’t turn out, they were dense and heavy.  Beignets are all about being light and fluffy.

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My mother was getting a little fed up with my raving about the beignets, I think, because she emailed me a recipe one day and said… screw the beignets and try these. So I did.

 

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OMG… seriously… not nearly as finicky and pretty much as good.  Yes, I’ll admit there is something lacking, like the above 100 degree weather, the music, the iced coffee, the outdoor patio, who am I kidding… the feel of New Orleans!  But if I turn up the heat in the house, throw my coffee in a blender with ice and close my eyes these could easily pass!

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If you have or even if you haven’t had beignets I suggest you try these, dare I say better than beignets!  If you google ‘vdolky’ you will see that the Czech version is often served with preserves or jam and/or whipping cream on top.  It was suggested to me that if I wanted to serve them this way then I should squish a dip in the centre before frying to create a little groove for a filling… I was more intent on pretending I was back in NOLA.   ;)

Also these can be fried or baked…. I chose to jump ALL IN and fry them… next time I’ll maybe give baking a shot.  And if you’re going to mitigate the caloric intake by baking let me know how they turn out for you.

Vdolky

  • 250 ml milk
  • 25 grams fresh yeast (1 Tablespoon of dry)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

 

  • 500 grams flour
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (fine or icing)
  • 40 grams melted butter (unsalted)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 10 tablespoons milk
  • zest of one orange or lemon (optional – more Czech than beignet so leave out for a beignet taste)
  • sprinkle of salt
  • extra icing sugar to sprinkle on top (okay LOTS)

Heat the milk until hot to the touch, mix in the granulated sugar and yeast and allow to bloom. In a separate bowl mix the flour, salt, powdered sugar and lemon or orange zest if you like.   Melt the butter and allow to cool enough so it isn’t hot, then add to the milk and yeast mixture, mix in the egg yolks and extra milk and place in a large mixer with dough hook.  Add the dry ingredients and mix slowly at first and once it starts to come together turn it up to almost medium speed.

Mix or knead the dough for a good 10 minutes.  Your dough should be soft and silky and still a little sticky.

Place a splash of oil in a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl cover and let it rest/rise for an hour or until doubled in size covered somewhere warm. I often turn the oven on for a couple of minutes to warm it up then turn it off and place the bowl in the warm oven just make sure you turned it off.  You should also roll the dough in the bowl so that the dough it’s covered in oil otherwise it’ll develop a dry skin which isn’t great.

Once it’s risen then flour a dry clean surface and sprinkle with flour and roll it out to about an inch thick.  Cover with a clean tea towel and let it rise another 15 – 20 minutes.   In the meantime fill a frying pan about a 1/2 inch with oil and bring to medium heat.  Cut the dough into squares or rectangles and fry, turning them over when they are just golden brown.  They will rise like crazy as they cook. Place on a papertowel and quickly cover with icing sugar.

Sprinkle with as much icing sugar as you think… then double that amount to get the NOLA feel… So So Good.

 

 

 

Chicken Soup and (Játrové Knedlíčky) Liver Dumplings

Posted by Pussycat in Soups | Leave a comment

A while back I had been asked to post a couple of recipes, liver dumplings for soups and kolace, I have been remise at posting them up until now… finally… tada…. the liver dumplings or Játrové Knedlíčky!  The kolace are coming…. soon I promise.

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It’s hard sometimes to make things for a blog post when the people in your house don’t like something and that that has been my issue up until now. I’m really the only one in the house who likes liver and I must admit it’s not as if I crave it on any regular basis or anything. My favourite way to have liver has been disguised as steak with a huge pile of caramelized onions and some good steak sauce.  Even then if it was ever overcooked, usually by me, not my mom, then it was just not great. There is a very fine line between cooked and bone dry. Last week when I was enjoying a beef tenderloin and reminiscing about my mom’s ‘steak’ I actually craved liver. And I remembered that these dumplings have been on my list of things to make since someone asked me for the recipe a while back…. sorry it’s taken me so long… :)  But trust me when I say… they’re worth waiting for?

No kidding… these are DAMN good!

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This post is long overdue though it works out well since my T is coming over tomorrow for dinner and she likes liver. She’s the other unusual one in my family because she’ll just generally eat anything that is good for her, even if she has to argue with her tastebuds. I’m guessing she’ll like this and I have to say it’s been many many years since I’ve had these and I like them far more than I remember. Perhaps my tastebuds have matured as well.

At any rate, if you’re iron levels are low or you think you may need a boost to help recover from a long winter give these babies a try. They are subtle and super light and fluffy, not like biting into a piece of liver if that scares you, and the garlic and marjoram give them a lovely flavour.

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Játrové Knedlíčky – Liver Dumplings

  • 100 grams ground beef liver
  • 100 grams day old bun or bread slices soaked in milk (with the excess liquid squeezed out)
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon wheatlets

Likely you won’t find ground beef liver anywhere, you’ll have to grind your own. I bought regular sliced beef liver, pulled the membrane off (don’t forget to do that) and then put through my meat grinder – you could also mince it very fine by hand.

Soak the bread in a little bit of milk for a few minutes, then squeeze out the excess liquid.

Mix together all ingredients and let sit for 3 – 5 minutes. The reason for this is that the wheatlets need to absorb the liquid before you cook them, if you don’t let them do that they tend to be hard in the middle and we don’t want that.

Your mixture should be a very loose dough or fairly thick porridge consistency. Use a teaspoon to scoop some of the mixture and drop in gently in a pot of simmering broth. I have found that if I first dip the spoon in the hot broth then the mixture will come off the spoon much earlier and won’t fall apart. Let the dumplings simmer for 3-5 minutes and then you’re done.

I would make one and then taste it so that you can adjust the seasonings, I added more garlic and marjoram but that’s because I love strong flavours and these are two of my favourites.

These are great because unlike noodles, you can leave them in the soup and they won’t become mushy with time as they sit. And because you’ll give your iron level a boost!

Stuffed Beef Tenderloin

Posted by Pussycat in Main Dishes | 1 Comment

There is something about the word ‘steak’ that conjures up a feeling of a very good, rich meal; maybe it’s paired with lobster or crab, for certain it’s accompanied by a baked potato and some nicely roasted vegetable. Steak seems to be associated with affluence, a night out, a special occasion, a big expense.

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When I was little my mother didn’t cook steak and did cook steak. Her version of a steak dinner was making fried liver with a side of our favourite steak sauce and passing it off as steak. I was really young. I bought the steak schtick. I just ate it. Liver was cheap back then and she was always deceived by my boney prepubescence into believing I was in desperate need of nutrition. Iron, I was always lacking in iron in her eyes and she could fix that by feeding me her version of steak. Fortunately for me she cooked liver perfectly, not overcooking it into a dry sawdust state and by the time I figured out that I was actually eating liver it was simply too late to protest and I realized that I liked it.

Summers when my kids were young I cooked steak, though it was never the better cut. It was generally the cheapest cut of meat and I would marinate it in a container in the fridge for about a week with lots of onions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, ginger ale or 7Up and a splash of oil to seal the whole concoction. I would let it sit there all week and on the weekend I would take the meat out and barbecue it, replenishing the stock for the following weekend. Yes, the cheap cuts of meat needed all that time to break down enough for us to be able to chew them.

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Of course it didn’t help that my girls liked their meat overcooked, revolted at the sight of any juice on their plate. Even having marinated for a week once it was ‘well done’ it was chewy. But there was just something I loved about barbecuing steak on a hot summer day, the ease, the lack of cookware involved, the feeling of a meal out (side) instead of the drudgery that comes every so often with having to cater meals to two picky little girls. Wrapping a potato in foil and letting it sit in the oven was virtually mindless. It was a treat for me to cook those meals and sometimes I would indulge in a nice cold beer, sitting outside, while the kids played and ran through the sprinkler, waiting for the potatoes to bake before setting the steaks on, feeling like I was an adult even though I was poor and we were struggling and I couldn’t afford to take them out for a steak dinner.

 

We still eat steak frequently, it’s still the epitome of a great meal for me. The cut of meat has grown and evolved, I can actually afford and much prefer a much better cut of beef. As much as we pride ourselves on barbecuing throughout the winter some minus 40 days are just too big of a challenge for our barbecue to hold heat enough to cook steak. That’s a lie. We’re sucks. No one here wants to stand outside in that weather to actually barbecue a steak or anything for that matter when the weather is that cold. And even when it’s a good cut of meat nothing really beats the barbecue and we’ve been spoiled so that we don’t want to cook our meat stovetop. We’ve had to adapt to our first world problems.

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Earlier I pulled out a piece of tenderloin from the freezer, I was craving a hearty beefy meal and once again it was much too cold to stand in the windchill and barbecue steaks. I scanned though the internet looking for something different to do with the fabulous but raw cut of meat that was waiting for me.

I drew inspiration from Dentist Chef and Becomingness and changed up the inside and outside a bit. I mixed whole allspice in with the peppercorns so that I could get the peppery crust without setting everyone’s mouth ablaze. The allspice has a similar texture to peppercorns but doesn’t pack the heat and once it’s all roasted and done, it’s amazing. I decided to ‘glue’ the peppercorn/allspice mixture to the roast with a mixture of Chardonnay mustard and honey hoping that if the peppercorns were still a little hot the sweetness would help to temper the burn. I stuffed my tenderloin with caramelized onions, spinach, slow roasted tomatoes (recipe in a previous post of mine) and chunks of gorgonzola cheese.  Two of us at this house aren’t big fans of smelly or blue cheese but I have to say this worked so well.  Everyone loved it… we’ll be doing this again!

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Peppercorn Crusted, Stuffed BeefTenderloin

  • I piece of tenderloin (denuded)
  • enough kitchen string to tie the tenderloin 2 – 3 times depending on size

Filling

  • 1 sliced and caramelized onion (pan fried in butter)
  • Large handful of fresh spinach (enough to cover the base of the beef)
  • 1/2 – 1 Cup slow roasted tomatoes (or sundried tomatoes)
  • 1/2 Cup Gorgonzola Cheese chunks

Coating

  • 2 Tablespoons mustard (whole grain preferably)
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 3 Tablespoons whole allspice

Instructions

Slice and fry a whole onion in butter until nicely caramelized and set aside. And preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Slice your tenderloin, as evenly as possible, lengthwise and flatten it out.  You can pound the meat lightly to get it as even as possible though the meat doesn’t really need a beating.

Layer ingredients on the length of meat leaving a bit of room on the edges to allow you to roll it up and not lose all the filling.  Layer the spinach, caramelized onions, tomatoes and cheese chunks. Then have the kitchen string handy as you’re getting ready to roll the whole thing up and tie in a couple of places so that it stays together.  ***I forgot when I made it, and seems I’m forgetting now, it’s a good idea to give the string a good soak in oil to allow you to take it off easier without pulling off the delicious crust when done.

Mix the honey and mustard in a bowl and microwave for just long enough so that the honey is melted and add in the oil.

Put the peppercorns and allspice in a plastic ziplock bag and crush coarsely with a rolling pin.

Coat the roast with the honey mustard mixture and then cover with the peppercorn mixture as evenly as possible. It’s a bit of a mess but don’t worry about that… it’ll be wonderful once baked.  Place the roast on a pan covered in foil and sprayed with oil and bake for about 20 minutes on the middle rack.

You can bake this for as long as you wish, even well done tenderloin is soft and amazing though we like our meat medium at this house these days… yes even the kids…. they adapted their way of eating beef.

Enjoy!

Beef Stroganoff with (hidden) Mushrooms over Noodles

Posted by Pussycat in Main Dishes | Leave a comment

Hiding Things

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I’ve hidden different things at different times in my life, Christmas presents from eager little eyes months before the big day, making mental notes as to where I stash things only to find that I’m scrambling to remember what it is that I’d hidden in the first place just before Christmas Eve.  I would wander around after the kids had gone to bed and feel like I was missing something, but alas I wasn’t. They would and they wouldn’t even be aware. Then I would find these gifts in the middle of summer and debate for a moment what to do with them.  Clearly nobody was missing these items.  And unable to convince myself that I could stash the items away again to actually find them the next year I would just hand them over and my girls would get a little surprise.  Thank God I didn’t stash any perishable items.  Over the years I stopped hiding things away.  I now hide things in the same spot, put my glasses in the same spot, my watch, rings and phone.  If I didn’t I would most certainly spend most of my time running around the house like a freak constantly looking for things.

I’ve hidden money for a rainy day, though this happened most often when I’d go into a winter coat at the beginning of a cold snap, plunge my hands into my pockets and feel a crumpled bill shoved to the bottom.  Clearly I had been in a rush the last time I wore the coat, probably getting gas with a line up behind me or running out of somewhere and just shoving the five or ten in my pocket, too hurried to open my purse, open my wallet and place it where it should be. Then the bill would resurface once the weather was again too cold for sweaters, almost as payment for the horrendous weather I was about to have to endure for the next three months. The five or ten or, less often — twenty would rustle as I put my hands in my pocket for the first time that season to find a small and hardly sufficient but still welcome gift.

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I’ve also been known to hide feelings from people especially when I’ve been so frustrated I’ve wanted to strangle them, though I don’t actually hide that very well. I’ve never had a good poker face as they say and even less so as I get older.  I suppose I’m tired of hiding how I feel, it’s too much work and the weight of it is something I’m not interested in carrying for anyone else’s self esteem anymore.  And though I tend to be more honest I also tend to be a bit more forgiving and so frustrations don’t have the same hold on me as they used to  at one time.

I’ve unintentionally hidden things even when I just wanted to simply put them away, to keep them safe, for a while, then I would desperately look for them for days until I gave up and that’s when they would surface.  Maybe having done this once too often is what has exhausted me from hiding things.

Of all the things I’ve hidden I think the food I’ve hidden in other food has been my favourite thing to hide.  I remember hiding all sorts of vegetables in beet soup so that my kids would get the benefit and I wouldn’t have to hear the complaints about not liking peas or spinach.  A round thing a square thing a flat thing a fat thing… they are all the same when cooked long enough in beet soup and you can’t hardly pick them out if MOM cuts them small enough. I remember sitting and watching them devour a bowl of bright red vegetable filled soup and smile because they didn’t know to put up a fight and I won… and so did they.

These days I live with two people who hate mushrooms.  I’ve realized that they don’t hate the flavour of mushrooms when I started hiding ground dried mushrooms in gravy and no one complained.  It was the texture that they don’t like and even though I don’t understand  that I’d rather resort to hiding mushrooms and still getting to eat them, enjoy the flavour of them, rather than fight with two of the people I love.  Life is just too short.

Ground dried mushrooms have become one of my favourite ingredients to use since I’ve started stealthily incorporating them into soups and sauces. Not only do they give a nice layer of flavour to dishes they also serve to thicken things, often without having to make a roux or using cornstarch.  And though I haven’t seen this ingredient in stores anywhere it’s certainly easy enough to buy dried mushrooms and grind them yourself though admittedly they are not cheap, but then you don’t really need much.

 

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Hidden Mushroom Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff

  • 2 lbs of stewing beef
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup ground dried mushrooms ( about 1 1/2 cups of dried mushrooms run through a bullet or coffee grinder)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 litre of beef stock (unsalted)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
  • splash of oil to coat the pot

Mix all dry ingredients including the ground mushrooms in a large bowl and then add your beef pieces.  Mix well to ensure all meat is covered in the mixture then set aside while your set a pot on the stove to medium heat with a little splash of oil and wait until it gets nice and hot.

Add the coated beef and brown on all sides.  Add the beef stock and water and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook until the meat is nice and fork tender.  Take the pot off the stove and stir in the sour cream until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve over a nice bed of noodles.  I used wild rice noodles but I’ve also served this over broad egg noodles.

Eat immediately… enjoy.

 

Chocolate Wine Poached Pears with Wine Reduction

Posted by Pussycat in Sweets | 2 Comments

Valentine’s

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Valentine’s Day will fall ten days before the tenth anniversary of my daughter’s cancer diagnosis this year. Yes. February 24th. There are many dates I forget and I’m embarrassed to say that they include various close friends’ birthdays, anniversaries, special events, the specific number of years we’ve had pets or even my own relationships seem to escape me. It’s not that I don’t want to remember — I just honestly can’t. Time seems to mean nothing to me. I’ll admit here that I had to actually concentrate and count back to be sure that this particular anniversary is actually the 10th and for people who know me this won’t come as a shock. Even as I write this there’s a very tiny part of me that isn’t quite 100% sure I’m right because I’m so often so wrong.

Many of my friends find it hysterical when we talk about time. You know those conversations between friends, how long they’ve known each other, or how long its been. Outrageous numbers come out of my mouth and complete confusion slides over my face. They think I’m insane and most of them just don’t get it. And neither do I…. Seriously!

Time seems to sit behind me somewhere all messed up in a pile. I don’t envision it as a line where I can mark events or a movie clip I can fast forward or rewind to remember…. Just a pile of all sorts of events that get all jumbled up, often overlapping in strange and ridiculous ways. For me it doesn’t often matter when an event took place but simply that it did. And this event, in its entirety is imprinted on my life like a fingerprint on a pair of glasses that obscures things, forces you to focus and look harder and try to understand and see through the smudge. You can occasionally wipe the smudge away but so often something happens that will make you look through it again. Valentine’s Day is that day for me in many ways and maybe it’s because that’s how I manage to remember the 24th, the actual numbers seem similar to me in a way though the significance, taste and feel of the day is drastically different.

So many things have changed, memorable and forgettable things. We’ve moved out of the house that seemed to be serendipitously close to the hospital. Both of us growing out of it at different times to different places, leaving parts of ourselves behind us. Still, occasionally my mind drifts back, sometimes when I smudge my glasses and other’s oddly when the house seems to be cracking open.

The house cracks and snaps, often at night as it’s bearing against the wind that so forcefully comes racing off the river. I’ve never actually seen any cracks or splits, the house hasn’t torn apart but I know slight fractures exist, hidden deep in the cedar walls be they nails or splitters of wood. It reminds me that we all have cracks in our lives that don’t often tear us wide open even when we think that the sheer force of the assault should. It’s amazing really, the weathering of the worst kinds of storms. And though I’ve not counted the years as you would steps, away from that time. I wasn’t sure when the numbers were supposed to begin and the people around me told I shouldn’t … so I didn’t.

I felt like I should make something significantly different this Valentine’s Day. Ten is significant. TEN is different. Not better necessarily as the number itself doesn’t really mark any kind of line in the sand… I know better…. But it still stands out for me somehow. No cake, tart or cookie as in year’s past. I’ve decided to make Asian Pears Poached in Chocolate Red Wine. Regardless of levels of stress or misery the combination of chocolate and wine are timeless and somehow magical and aside from having a bottle of chocolate wine on hand, it just makes sense. A special treat for a special anniversary.

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Yes, I realize that it isn’t actually Valentine’s Day yet. But need I remind you that actual dates don’t mean that much to me? I’m just marking this year differently, I will enjoy Valentine’s Day with my co-conspirator but enjoyed something special with my kids just the same. And this actually works out well for all of you out there because this dish is so easy you still have plenty of time to make it for your loved ones… for Valentine’s Day.

You don’t need much for this recipe… It is sinfully simple!

Asian Pears Poached in Chocolate WineIMG_0020_

Chocolate Wine Poached Asian Pears with a Wine Reduction

  • 1/2 – 3/4 bottle of good chocolate wine (I would choose a less creamy kind, and use enough to cover the fruit)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2-3 Asian Pears (peeled, halved and cored)
  • ice cream
  • mint leaves (optional)
  • shaved chocolate (optional)

Pour about a half a bottle of wine in a saucepan big enough to place your fruit in one layer, add the sugar and heat to about medium temp. While the wine is heating up and the sugar is dissolving peel and core the Asian Pears. Set the fruit in the pan and make sure there is enough wine to cover, they’ll rise up a bit so don’t put in too much. Place the lid on the pan and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes then gently turn the fruit over to ensure that the other side also cooks, about another 20 minutes. There really isn’t a hard and fast rule here just that you need to try to simmer the fruit on both sides so that it cooks as evenly as possible and is soft but still firm enough to hold its shape. The exact length of cooking time will depend on how firm your fruit is.

Once the fruit is cooked take it out gently and let it cool. This can be done the day ahead to make things really easy. Now for the really good part, let the wine simmer for about another half hour. You want to reduce it so that it starts to feel thick. You’ll notice it starts to coat the side of the pan and that’s what you want. Once you take it off the heat it will thicken further as it cools. Allow the sauce to cool and then serve the pear with a scoop of ice cream, drizzle with the sauce and some chocolate pieces or mint leaves.

This is uncomplicated and beautiful — the way life should be!

Happy Valentines…

RAW: Almond – Winnipeg

Posted by Pussycat in Reviews | Leave a comment

A Winter Dining Experience in Winnipeg – On the Frozen Red River

Imagine being bundled up in full winter gear, walking down a frozen river in the darkness. You are starving. You haven’t had much to eat all day. The wind is blowing, your face is freezing and your eyes are watering from the sting of the cold — it’s about minus 25 with the windchill (if you don’t know what that means then you don’t obviously live in Canada). You come upon an illuminated tent that seems to sit in the middle out of nowhere. You were just thinking to yourself, “What the hell am I doing out here?  I must be out of my cotton picking mind!” You don’t dare take off your mitts to unzip the doorway for fear your fingers will freeze on the metal zipper. You are greeted by about a dozen people huddled together in a foyer that will again unzip to a makeshift restaurant on the Red River just off from where it meets the Assiniboine. Is this a mirage? Is this a nightmare? No. This is an amazing dining experience!

 
I felt at one with the crowd which is something that doesn’t often happen since I tend to stay away from large groups of people — No anxiety issues — just preference. The only other times I remember feeling this way were in years past at The Lake, where you could leave your bicycle out in the borrowed yard leaning against a trailer and where everyone came to relax and enjoy the beautiful weather. That was the place where people didn’t steal your bike, didn’t go inside your home, waved and smiled at you when you walked by and slowed down to let you cross the gravel road. I’m not sure how many places there are anymore where these things are true but it has been my experience that this still exists at The Lake, wherever that is— during any given summer. And now it feels like it also exists in the middle of a frozen river in Winnipeg. Though to be fair I didn’t ride my bike and I didn’t leave it leaning against the tent, so this could be just my perception but I’m going with it.

Dinner on the RiverIMG_00000086_
I’m not sure exactly what it is about camping that prompts people to be kind to each other, maybe it’s the lack of stress, maybe it’s the perceived struggle of roughing it, maybe it’s the beautiful weather — though rainy days never seemed to bring out the beasts in anyone — or maybe it’s just the fresh air. This kindness and camaraderie was also seemingly present as I sat on a tuft of black faux fur placed on a wooden stump at RAW: Almond at the Forks in what felt like the dead of night… our seating was at 9:30 pm and they were running behind when we arrived.  I would come to understand and appreciate the late seating since we didn’t want our party to end either.

Dinner on the RiverIMG_00000084_

We were fortunate enough to get tickets to this annual event that is in it’s third year and based on current popularity it will continue for many more. The event is sold out long before anyone not in the know hears about it. Is it the idea of eating in a tent on the frozen river that brings people out? Is it the pride that Winnipeggers feel when they don’t let a small thing like the long cold winter deter them from enjoying a dinner outside? Or … Is it the damn good food?

I personally think it’s all of these things. The eating experience is certainly intensified by the trek onto the frozen river, crouching through a zippered doorway into a makeshift restaurant where staff and visitors alike wear their winter best — you can’t live here and not have a good pair of boots, warm mitts, hat and parka. They then seat themselves either on faux fur covered wooden stumps or the edge of the ice that is carved in the shape of a wine bottle and await a set meal they’ve purchased based on their selection of Chef rather than menu.

Dinner on the RiverIMG_00000099_

We sat around the long table with pendant lights, our group of six with another ten people at one of four tables. The kitchen staff wore funky metallic bodysuits to ward off the cold that emanated from the ice floor that was covered in rubber mats to keep everyone’s feet from sliding out from under them. Each guest was given a shot of vodka… a little extra boost added to the vents that blow in warm air, the music turned up a bit — “Cheers!” and the party was on.

Dinner on the RiverIMG_00000112_

I’d love to tell you in delicious detail all about the food we ate but really — that wouldn’t do it justice. Though I did take a few pictures, admittedly not the best quality, you can certainly use your imagination to fill in the blanks. I will say though, that we had a starter of sustainable protein provided by Diversity Foods which included crickets and meal worms and everyone in our group… yes — even the slightly faint of heart — enjoyed the first of the parade of plates that took us about two hours to eat, each more delicious than the next though none as daring as the first. I will admit that though I L.O.V.E. food there was a voice in my head that screamed, “SHUT THE FRONT DOOR” when first I saw and heard our waiter mention meal worms and crickets but I closed my eyes and thoroughly enjoyed every last bite! And I suggest that if you ever find yourself being served this kind of meal on a cold dark night you do the same because it is well worth the ride especially when the Chef is experienced… I harken back to a saying I repeat to others, “You can eat anything and everything — if it is cooked well” and this was cooked amazingly well.

Dinner on the RiverIMG_00000115_

Our boundaries had been expanded and we were all eager to devour more. Next on the list was slightly cooked Bison Tartar, Sweet Potato Chips with Lentils and Horseradish. The horseradish could have used a more vigorous kick in my humble opinion but I like horseradish to incinerate my nasal passages and burn my eyes and I’d guess I’m the odd woman out as opposed to the norm. It was super yummy nonetheless. The Heirloom Beet Salad drenched with a broth and surrounded pillowy carrot gnocchi was small but hearty and delicious. Then the dreamy Polenta with Chicken Sausage and Smoked Duck with Cilantro and bits of bursting corn – Ah… Mazing. And there was the Elk with Browned Butter and Parsnip Purée… another home run I can’t even begin to describe. Who knew parsnips could be so damn luscious but seriously… a puddle of perfectly browned butter — no diets here because everything is better with browned butter and this was no exception. Lastly, the home made Yogurt, Chocolate Cake with Freeze Dried and Fresh Berries was the perfect… let’s say that again… PERFECT end to a begrudgingly ended evening.

Dinner on the RiverIMG_00000110_

Though my feet were entirely frozen because I neglected to wear my warm boots and the cold emanating from the ice seeps into you if you don’t guard against it appropriately… I’ll know better for next time. This is an experience not to be missed and it transforms the harsh Winnipeg winter… with a few shots, vodka and Jaegermeister, several bottles of wine and several plates of great food into the best winter camping experience I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. If you haven’t already purchased your tickets or gone to the Red for dinner you are too late for this year. RAW: Almond is wrapping up and we have to wait for the weather to move through spring, summer and fall so that we can once again drink and dine on the frozen river. I’d suggest you beg or borrow or shamelessly steal one of those coveted tickets for next year’s event if you can… you will not regret it. I for one will be seeking out tickets when the first snowflakes fly.

Dinner on the RiverIMG_00000116_

Raw: Almond on Urbanspoon

BAM Shrimp

Posted by Pussycat in Main Dishes | Leave a comment

IMG_0007 Bam ShrimpI am an oxymoron — a figureof speech by which a locution produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect, as in “cruel kindness” or “to make haste slowly.” according to the dictionary and this is what I feel like these days.  I love food and eating different things yet I seem to constantly get into a rut of eating the same thing over and over again.  These two acts are just not congruent.  I can eat the same thing for lunch for weeks on end, it’s easy, it’s mindless and if I like or love something I will make it over and over again rarely thinking even about what I’m eating or preparing to take to work with me everyday.

This is what I have done with these damn BAM Shrimp.  They are so easy and they appeal to my need to ease up on carbs during the winter — okay this particular winter — because I’ve been lazy and my activity level has been plummeting. To combat my inactivity I need to take it easy on carbs or those damn little critters will shamelessly turn into fat and though I can definitely enjoy the meals I’ll be bloated and miserable as the number on the scale slowly creeps me into a depression.

It’s not fair, this getting older, having to watch what you eat.  Though I have never counted carbs I have in the last year tried really hard to not eat that lovely soft and crusty loaf of bread or that bowl of cream laden pasta.  If you are struggling with the same things I seem to be consider this a gift from me to you.  Though I’m certain I’m not the one to have discovered this particular way of eating shrimp I am posting it here to share with you.

I discovered Emeril Lagasse’s BAM Creole Seasoning mix quite some time ago and have recently been putting it on everything.  Maybe I’m missing New Orleans where the spicy foods abound or maybe I’m being lazy and just putting it on everything (like in my previous post Bam Cup of Soup) because the seasoning punch in this mixture seems to make up for the lack of fat and carbs, no matter.  This little treat is so simple and quick it makes for a perfect weeknight meal.

IMG_0024 Bam Shrimp

BAM Shrimp

  • 1 bag of deveined shrimp (thawed and peeled leaving the tail on)
  • 2 tablespoons or more of the BAM Seasoning
  • 1-2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter (to fry)
  • 1 + 1 tablespoon canola oil (1 added to butter in the pan so that it the butter doesn’t burn and 1 for the shrimp)
  • Sprinkle of salt

Thaw the shrimp and toss with the seasoning, flour and 1 tablespoon of oil, let this sit while the pan heats up (about medium heat) melting the butter and mixing with the oil in the pan. Lay the seasoned shrimp in the hot pan in one layer and let these babies sizzle for 2 – 3 minutes.  Turn them over and cook for a couple of minutes more until they are opaque.  Quickly transfer to a bowl and serve with a wedge of lemon, seasoning with a little salt and serve.  Don’t forget to scrape up the fried bits of seasoning (with the butter) and add that to the shrimp.

These are so yummy you won’t miss the pasta… at least not for today.

 

BAM Cup of Soup

Posted by Pussycat in Soups | Leave a comment

IMG_0001 Shirataki Noodle Cup of Soup

Do you remember the cups of noodles that you probably ate shamelessly as a teenager? The ones that are full of fried noodles, less than a half dozen pieces of vegetables that are so out of place they stand out and allow you to brainwash yourself into believing that perhaps you’re actually eating something that might be healthy; the ones that only require that you plug in the kettle and pour boiling water and wait? Though the waiting is truly a challenge and I would often burn my tongue slurping it too soon. I loved these noodles. Okay, I still love these noodles or at least I love the memory of them. I always had the spicy version, spicy chicken, spicy beef, but who are we kidding there wasn’t actually any meat in these styrofoam cups. It was the spicy broth and the noodles that always appealed to me as well as the ease and portability of them. You could throw the shrink-wrapped cup in a bag and as long as you could get some hot water you were good to go.

Maybe you’re still eating them but I for one have long past the age where my internal system is able to manage all the salt and MSG that lurks inside and I have been avoiding them for years. That doesn’t mean that I don’t miss them and wish I could still eat them. Yes, it seems I’m still doing some ‘lamenting’ as I was in my last post. Maybe I need to go out and buy myself a convertible, or maybe I just need to get over it. Though I suppose that’s the challenge for many of us and would be why so many people my age are driving some pretty expensive sports cars. You know who you are.

IMG_0003 Shirataki BAM Soup

We’ve seemingly been immobilized by the winter weather lately, hunkered down watching as many of the Oscar nominated movies as we can and the list is amazing this year to be sure. My experience of watching these movies so far has evoked my mother’s voice. “You have to taste it before you decide you don’t like it.” These words also ring true of the movies. You have to watch them before deciding you don’t like them. Granted that may not be true of ALL movies, I think we need to have some latitude here to dismiss some movies though I’m not going to tell you which of those I think they are, I will say that they are not of the ones on the list of this year’s nominations. These words snapped in my head as I reluctantly watched Birdman. It wasn’t even just that I wasn’t much in the mood for that kind of movie, which by the way was not at all what I had talked myself into thinking it was going to be, I wasn’t even actually in the mood to see if it was something that I would like. But I did. Watch it that is. And love it.

Now I’ve seen most of the nominated movies and Birdman is dark and funny and eerie in a way that is not metaphysical or unrealistic but realistic in a way that will follow you for a few days. But don’t take my word for it, try it and see what you think. It happens to be my favourite so far.

IMG_0006 Shirataki BAM Soup

This brings me back to the ‘try it and see before you decide’ comment. I posted Shirataki noodles with Chicken soup before and after moving out butts and getting out on a nicer winter day this soup is pure comfort. The noodles themselves are gelatinous and really pretty flavourless but once you immerse them in a broth that is killer they will bring back memories of your youth though with much less guilty and much less swelling as a result if MSG does that to you as it does me. It’s also pretty simple and just a wee bit more work than boiling water. So simple. So good. So healthy! Also good for Dukan followers everywhere. I’m still going to post the BAM Shrimp but today I needed soup.

Cup of Soup

  • package of ground turkey
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 – 3 Tablespoons (to taste) Emeril’s Essence seasoning*
  • 1 litre of beef broth (salt and fat free)
  • 2 bunches of baby Bok Choy
  • handful or two of chopped cabbage
  • 2-3 kale leaves chopped
  • 1 package of Shirataki Angle pasta noodles

Fry the onion in a medium sized pot in a small drizzle of oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ground turkey and season with Emeril’s Essence mix, fry until the turkey is cooked through. Add the broth and throw in the vegetables. I use the ones as listed above but any ones can be added depending on your affinity towards certain veggies. Rinse the noodles in a strainer and then add to the mix. I cut my noodles up since they’re a challenging to keep on the spoon if they’re too long and warm everything and eat. I will generally top my soup off with some additional chili paste but you don’t have to, it really depends on how hot you like it and Emeril’s seasoning mix packs a bit of a punch if you use a fair bit like I do.

The thing that is nice about these noodles is that they do NOT disintegrate or suck up a whole bunch of the broth. The lousy thing about these noodles is that they do NOT suck up the broth which means that a) they can sit in the soup as long as need be if you’re making this for the week’s lunches and b) they still won’t taste like much but they contain a whole lot of pure fibre.

*Emeril’s Essence Creole Seasoning Mix (I left out the salt in my mix and generally season with salt to taste)

INGREDIENTS
• 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
• 2 tablespoons salt
• 2 tablespoons garlic powder
• 1 tablespoon black pepper
• 1 tablespoon onion powder
• 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
• 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
• 1 tablespoon dried thyme