More Winter-Warming Comfort Foods: Sausage Bake

Sausage bake with full sausage links.So, winter is finally here because we got snow. Everyone around us has gotten pummeled but we just got a light dusting — still, it’s the white stuff, so winter is here. With winter, as I’ve said previously, I crave comfort foods. Now, for me, comfort foods aren’t necessarily foods I had as a child, but things that are just… comforting. Some, yes, are childhood favourites and some are newer favourites that have made their way into my kitchen in more recent years.

My hubby brought home a double-pack of honey-garlic sausages from Walmart, as they were on sale for really cheap. Typically, we’ll throw those on a pan in the oven and bake them off then serve on hotdog buns. I wanted to do something else. Something not relying on the bready-buns would be preferable. So I kind of poked around the internet, didn’t find what I was looking for, then went looking through the cupboards and fridge to see what I could concoct.

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Summer Solstice Warming Vegetable Soup

"Summer Solstice" vegetable soup with garlic cheese bread

I’ve recently found out that onions are generally a bad idea for me.  If I don’t want to end up having certain health issues that I won’t discuss here, I need to generally avoid them like the plague.

To say the least, this has really put a cramp in my cooking-style.

Almost every recipe out there involves onions of some description or another. Sliced, diced, chopped, minced, pureed… somehow, it’s present in everything from soups and stews to burgers and meatloaf. What’s an onion-avoiding girl to do??

With the recent rainstorms and cooler summer weather, I’ve found myself craving a good, hearty, warming soup. Yes, soup in the summer — I’m not crazy, I promise! But again: soup = onions. Right? Well, not exactly. I’ve found  that I have no adverse effects from onion powder. There’s hope yet! Based on this and wanting to get something equally tasty and nutritious into me, I went out to buy some veggies I haven’t had in recent days: cabbage  and sweet potatoes.

Sure, I’ve got potatoes in my pantry but the  sweet potatoes are generally so much better for you and they just have a different taste. So, today, after I had gotten up from a short afternoon nap, I started chopping and slicing and  whipped up this yummy little number. I’ve dubbed it Summer Solstice Warming Vegetable Soup because I created it on the Summer Solstice and the flavours are warming without being “spicy”. Feel free to play with the seasonings to make it more to your taste, but  I have to say that this turned out better than I originally imaged!

This also makes a huuuuuuuuuge pot of soup/stew, so feel free  to cut these measurements in half to make a dutch oven’s worth of soup. This one took my large stewing pot, just as a warning.  (See the end of this posting to see the “leftovers” after hubby and I both had two full bowlfuls!) Also, this was an instant hit with my hubby, though there was no meat in the soup. Woo! Here’s what I did…

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Making menus

spinachberrysalad-turkeysausage

This was my breakfast yesterday: spinach and berry walnut salad with light feta cheese and a raspberry balsamic vinaigrette next to a baked turkey sausage patty.

I posted this to Facebook and people raved about how good it looked. Then I shared a secret: I didn’t make the  salad myself, nor the sausage. They were pre-made at the stores. The salad was from Metro. I just added the feta and dressing (which I did make myself with some olive oil and raspberry balsamic vinegar). The turkey sausage patty was bought at (of all places) Walmart and baked for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven (flipping over once halfway through). I could have made these from scratch, yes.

But sometimes, you just want something quick and easy. With buying the pre-made (but fresh versions of these) foods, it makes meal-making pretty quick and easy. This post isn’t about short-cuts — though I encourage you to make whatever short-cuts you wish or to make everything from scratch if you so wish. No, this post is more about menu-making, to help my friend out. 🙂

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Mom’s “Hamburger Hash (stew)”, made my way

hamburger-hash-stew

This one’s an old family favourite for me. It’s one that we had very frequently as kids and I always looked forward to it. It wasn’t until recently that I said my mom, “Remember when you used to make hamburger hash for us? I used to love that and haven’t had it in years!” My mom told me she had, ironically, just made it a few days prior. So I asked her, “How do you make it??” I said, “Do you first brown the meat–?” She cut me off and said, “Oh, god no! That’s too much work!” or something very similar. She told me how she did it all those years ago and now I’m going to share with you how I made it recently for my hubby and myself.

Oh, but wait. What is hamburger hash, you ask? Oh! It’s not like a breakfast hash made with potatoes. It’s more like a ground beef stew that’s poured over mashed potatoes. When I was a kid, it was made with onion and ground beef and was in a really thick gravy. I imagine it was a favoured dish because it was relatively cheap and easy to make — which of course made it really easy to feed a family of four on a budget and without having to spend hours in the kitchen. Here’s what I did…

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Jamie Oliver-inspired cooking: slow-cooked beef stew

Jamie Oliver-inspired Slow Cooked Beef Stew in a bowlI have always made stew the same way: saute onions in some oil, then brown some flour-covered beef in batches, deglaze, add the rest of the veggies and liquid and bake for an hour or two, then try to thicken it up on the stove-top with a flour-slurry, because it just  never seemed to thicken in the oven.

I’ve never been happy with this so I’ve been poking around, looking for a better technique.

Then I stumbled across Jamie Oliver’s recipe for Jools’s favourite beef stew. In it, he talks about how it’s really not necessary to brown the meat in batches, as so many chefs would have you do and that he actually prefers the taste and texture of  the stew when he doesn’t pre-brown. He simply sautes his onions, then throws in the floured, seasoned meat, the liquids, vegetables and then brings it to a boil on the stove before throwing a lid on it and forgetting about it in the oven for 3-4 hours. Let me tell you, when I followed these instructions, I preferred the outcome. The taste and texture was indeed better than any stew  I’ve made in the past and the meat was perfectly tender (it’s been tough in the past).

So here’s what I did this time around for my best ever slow-cooked beef stew…

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Homemade chicken biscuit pie

A bowl of chicken biscuit pieWe’ve had grey skies on and off this week, so I’ve found myself craving comfort food. Keeping in mind my new meal plan regimen, I decided to see how I could revamp an old favourite: chicken pot pie. My old version was no doubt loaded full of sodium, fat, calories and carbs. This new recipe still has all that, but the values are no doubt cut back. Choosing lower sodium ingredients and limiting portions on the bread-like topping by using perfectly sized biscuits helps keep some of those values in check.

Here’s what I did…

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Christmas leftovers stew

A bowl of stew with a spoon sticking in it.We all end up with leftovers at Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate!), don’t we? I know I do. Not only did we have leftover chicken from our Christmas-Day-at-home this year, but also turkey that Mom sent home with us the night before.  We had an entire veggie tray that was just going to waste, too. So, I put  on my thinking cap, set my big stew pot on the stove and started to clean out the fridge. Here’s what I did…

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