Winter-friendly meal: slowcooker chicken chowder

A bowl of crockpot chicken chowder topped with crumbled bacon.Although it’s a little warmer out today, I know it’s just a matter of time before the winter cold sets in again. Time for soup! But not just any soup: chowder. Now, I know that chowder is more traditionally made with fish, but I’ve made corn chowder more than once. This time, I’m going for a chicken chowder with lots of veggies and I’m trying out Campbell’s Stock First (TM) Cream stock. I got two boxes to give them a try. Earlier this weekend, I made a mac and cheese with one of the boxes (and it was pretty tasty!). So, today, I used the second box to make the chowder.

I will warn: this is not that thick, gloopy type of chowder that is more traditional. This is a thinner broth. If you prefer a thicker broth, you might want to switch to cream instead of skim milk. I’ve heard of some folks who make it with heavy whipping cream. I might consider using two boxes of the cream stock next time, cutting out the milk and sour cream entirely. I just used what I had on hand.

Here’s what I did… Continue reading

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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Potato-Overload Leftover Makeover: Tuna Veggie Patties

Tuna veggie patty on a white plate.

I don’t know about you, but I have a horrible time judging how many potatoes to cook, even for just two people. I always end up cooking too many, or find myself wishing I had cooked up more — though I tend to err on the side of caution and the old family motto of better to have too much rather than not enough!

This week, I found myself in this very predicament. I had two bags of mini white potatoes and thought, “I’ll just cook them all up!” Well, that’s about 2 lbs of potatoes. For two people, I really should have been thinking this through a little bit. We couldn’t possibly get through all those potatoes and still have the rest of the leftovers (chicken, veggies, etc.). So, yesterday, I found myself staring at about a pound or so of cooked potatoes and nothing to go with them, as the rest of the meal components had already been devoured.

What on earth was I going to do with these potatoes?

I had a revelation while at work: Mom used to make us salmon-potato patties for breakfasts on the weekends sometimes with canned salmon. Now, as I’ve likely said before, I’m not a seafood/fish fan, but I can eat canned tuna or canned salmon. I always have cans of low sodium tuna in the pantry. Salmon, not so much — I really get grossed out picking out all the icky bits in salmon, so I tend not to buy it. I’m very particular about salmon — it can’t have any of those little bits in it (you know the stuff). Anyway,  I digress. I got thinking: why not do the same thing but with tuna???

I also had some uncooked veggies in the crisper that were needing to get used up soon before they went bad, so I decided to put my own twist on these. Mom’s were always salmon and potato with salt and pepper for seasoning. She may have even added onion to hers, but I don’t really recall. That was a lonnnnng time ago! And seeing as I can’t eat onion right now, I was looking for other ways to spruce these patties up. So here’s what I did…

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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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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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Just what the doctor ordered: potato-leek soup

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So, I’ve been sick since New Years Day though I finally seem to be on the mend. The problem is that when I’m sick, we tend to eat horribly and rely on takeout a lot. This probably isn’t helpful to the recovery process as takeout isn’t exactly the most nutritious food out there

So I mustered up some strength and tore apart the fridge, taking my cutting board and veggies into the living room to chop and prepare while sitting down as much as I could. (Standing for long periods of time just won’t do when you are lightheaded.)

Luckily, there were lots of veggies to choose from including leeks, which is something new to this household. I’ve wanted to try them out for a while and just thought to pick them up with the last grocery run. And when you’re ill, what’s the first thing you generally want to eat other than toast or crackers? Soup!

Now, I haven’t had any stomach problems with this illness, so I didn’t need it to be broth-based, so here’s what I did…

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