Festive “Confetti” Breakfast Hash – Using Up Holiday Leftovers

So, we’re a few days after Christmas festivities and boy, do I have a lot of leftovers. For the most part, it’s a little baggie of this and a small container of that, mostly leftover from the veggie, meat & cracker trays I made for my Mom’s dinner on Christmas Day. Today, I was hungry and knew that some toast and peanut butter wasn’t going to “do it” for me, so I started taking stock of what I had in the fridge and freezer. Here’s what I found:

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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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Pared-down Polish haluski: Cabbage and Noodles

Tri-coloured noodles with turkey bacon and cabbage in a white ceramic ramakin

I am not Polish. My family’s background is primarily English and Irish. But as I had a step-great-grandfather who was Hungarian and thoroughly enjoyed Polish foods, I learned to love perogies. I still remember standing on a kitchen chair at my great-grandfather’s home with Nanny, my great-grandmother, helping her make perogies. My job was to cut the dough using an upturned glass to cut perfect circles.

I loved her perogies. And although I hadn’t really had much in the way of Polish or Hungarian food since, I think I simply “got a taste for it” when I was a small child  thanks to my great-grandfather’s love of these potato and cheese dumplings.

Is this posting about perogies? Nah. But it’s about another Polish dish: haluski. From what I understand, this is a dish that is typically made with egg noodles, bacon of some description or another, onions and shredded cabbage and it’s all sauteed up together. I first saw it on Diners, Drive-Ins and  Dives and have seen Guy Fieri’s version of haluski online. But  when I first saw it on Triple D, I thought that I just had to try it.

Unfortunately, again, I cannot eat anything with onion in it right now. So I thought that maybe I could make my own rendition of this, without the onion. I know that it wouldn’t be authentic at that point and that it probably couldn’t even be called haluski at that point, but I don’t cook for others’ tastes — I cook for my own. 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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Comfort food (not soup!): leek and turkey bacon bow-ties

Leek and turkey bacon bow-ties in alfredo sauce in a white bowl.

As I mentioned in my earlier post about potato leek soup, I’ve been ill since the beginning of the new year and I haven’t done a lot of cooking as a result. I’m just starting to feel like I’m on the mend, so I was able to stand in the kitchen for a little longer today than yesterday to make something with a little more substance than soup.

Don’t get me wrong: soup is great and very comforting, but  sometimes you want something with a bit more chew. Pasta is something I don’t have on a regular basis but I usually have some boxes of whole wheat noodles or pasta in the pantry at all times, just in case. Considering I’m low on proteins in the fridge right now, I had to work with what I had. There is some ground chicken and some pork schnitzels in the freezer, but both need thawing before they can be used. What protein do I have in abundance in the fridge? Low-sodium turkey bacon! Yum!

Considering I still had three leeks to use up, as well, I rummaged around in the pantry a bit more and found that I had a single bottle of store-bought Alfredo sauce. Now, I could start to see a meal forming in my head, so I went to work. Here’s what I did:

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