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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A daunting task: attempting a Gordon Ramsey recipe – Sausage Rice

Honey garlic sausage rice

I’ve enjoyed watching Gordon Ramsey’s Ultimately Cookery Course when I’ve managed to catch it. Watching these episodes makes his cooking seem a little more accessible. I was particularly intrigued by his spicy sausage rice recipe. It seemed simple and potentially delicious! The only issue I had was that it featured a spicy sausage, which I am not a fan of (I can’t handle hot spicy foods). But I thought, why can’t I do this with any other sausage?

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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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Beef vegetable soup with a kick

Beef vegetable soup with a kick in a white bowl

We’ve had cooler weather as of late, so I’ve been craving more and more soup and stew. After having the hearty goulash soup from the Black Forest Inn upped my cravings for beef soup, specifically one I would consider to be hearty. I already had a large eye of round roast cooking in the slow cooker, so I thought why not use half of that for a soup and slice up the rest for sandwiches?

Then I considered what I wanted in the way of a flavour profile. I knew I wanted something deeper in flavour than usual and maybe something that cleared the old stuffy sinuses a bit. So here’s what I did…

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Barbecue chicken barley soup

A bowl of barbecue chicken barley soup

The summertime isn’t a usual time for soup, I’ll admit, but since I’ve been on this lower carb kick, I’ve been eating a lot of soups and stews. Avoiding too much pasta cuts out a lot of casseroles, right? So I had a pre-cooked barbecued chicken in the fridge from the grocery store. But honestly, I am not a fan of chicken noodle soup. I think I got sick too many times when I was a kid, so I’m just not a fan of one of the best home remedies in the world. I’ll eat it if I’m sick, but I’m not going to eat it “just because”.

So, I thought, why not make something heartier? Why not make something more flavourful? I still had barley in the cupboard and a lot of veggies in the fridge and freezer that could be used up. Why not? Before long, I was saying to myself, “Soup’s on!” I’ll warn that since I don’t use a lot of salt anymore, my soups are getting heavier and heavier in the seasonings department. But don’t worry, it’s worth it, and it’s not as bad as it looks.

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REVIEW & REJIG: Hungarian mushroom soup recipe

A bowl of low-sodium Hungarian Mushroom SoupI was off sick from work today and slept most of the day away. When I awoke, I was feeling much better, but was absolutely famished. I considered calling and ordering some take-out chicken soup from Swiss Chalet until I looked up the nutritional value. For one bowl of chicken and vegetable noodle soup was over 1000mg of sodium!! No thank you!

My husband suggested that I make my own. The problem with that was that I had no chicken in the fridge! I had veggies and broth and whole wheat egg noodles (no yolk) but no chicken. Can’t have chicken soup without chicken, can we?

But by this point, I knew I wanted soup. So I went scouring around the web, looking for ideas. I knew I had about a pound of mushrooms that needed to be used up soon, so I based my searching on that ingredient. What I found was an intriguing recipe over on AllRecipes.com called Hungarian Mushroom Soup. I was surprised to find out that with the exception of the fresh parsley (I just had dried), I had all of the ingredients.

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