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The Meal Plan – Soup

Hey there and welcome to another installment of the Meal Plan. Well we’ve officially passed the midway point of November and only ten days away from United States Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, this time of year is also the start of the cold and flu season, so we thought that it would be a good idea to talk about a great comfort food to both prevent and nurse us in the event that we do get sick. And when you’re sick, the number one go-to food is soup.

The word soup is used to describe any food that primarily consists of liquid, with a few solid masses inside. They are generally classified into two main bodies—clear soups and thick soups—and each one has various sub-categories based on ingredients and preparation. Soups are often compared to, and sometimes confused with stews, but the main way to tell them apart is that stews are thicker and generally have more solid food than soup.

Clear soups are named after the fact that their broth is clear or mostly-clear to look in, so you can see the other ingredients. Classic examples of clear soups include beef soup, chicken soup (including the popular home remedy chicken-noodle soup) and vegetable soups. There are two main kinds of clear soups—Bouillon and Consommé. A Bouillon soup is a soup whose broth comes from boiling various herbs and beef together before serving. A consommé is prepared from a bouillon that has been clarified, which uses egg whites and shells to remove fats and sediment from the broth. Nowadays most soups are prepared from pre-made broths found in any supermarket, typically chicken and beef based ones.

A thick soup is the category that most soups fall under. They are classified by being very thick and opaque, with textures that can be borderline chunky. Two examples of thick soups are chowders and cream soups. Chowders are soups mixed with cream or milk, and served with all manner of seafood or vegetables. Sometimes the chowder is thickened further with crushed crackers, which are also used to sop up the mixture. Cream soups are, as the name says, pureed soups that have had large amounts of cream added to the broth. One of the most popular forms of cream soup is Cream of mushroom soup, which includes diced mushrooms and/or mushroom broth, though there are other recipes that can include vegetables, meat, fish, and grains. Other examples of thick soups include pureés—vegetable soups put through a food processor or blender—or any soup that has been thickened with starch or a slurry, a mixture of water and starch added to the broth.

There are countless possibilities and combinations available when making soup. They can be a simple vegetable based soup that can be ready in as little as a half hour from scratch or as complex as a consomme that takes a couple of days to properly prepare. For today’s recipe, I’m going to take the simple approach and provide you with a delicious potato soup recipe from  food.com that anyone can make  with very little prep time and simple ingredients guaranteed to be found in most homes.

Potato Soup 3

Unbelievably Easy Potato Soup

http://www.food.com/recipe/unbelievably-easy-potato-soup-74275

Ingredients

  • 1 large potato, per person
  • 14 cup chopped celery, per person (include leaves)
  • 14cup chopped onion, per person
  • 14 to 12cup milkor 14 to 12 cup half-and-half or 14 to 12 cup cream
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  • Peel and cube potatoes. Mix in a saucepan along with the onions and celery.
  • Add enough water to cover the saucepan, but don’t quite cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil on lower heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes, or until all of the vegetables are very tender.
  • Using a potato masher, coarsely crush the potatoes, but don’t mash them—you’ll want chunks left.
  • Add enough milk or cream to thin to desired thickness and add salt& pepper to taste.
  • Makes one serving.

The Meal Plan – Stew

Hey there and welcome to another installment of the Meal Plan. This week has been an exhausting one here at Hawley Crescent; we’ve had a number of events to cater for, including a wedding and a couple of other wedding related affairs.  Needless to say weève been hopping and could use a little rest to recharge the bateries. In light of this, we’re going to talk about a simple to make food that, in keeping with our themes of this month, has all sorts of recipes that encourage experimentation. And today that food is stew.

A stew is any kind of food item that’s comprised of solid food ingredients cooked in liquid, then served in the resulting gravy. On the surface they resemble soup, but the stew generally has less liquid than a soup, and requires a longer cooking time. Sometimes stews are so thick you can even serve them overtop other dishes as a solid-ingredient sauce, or eat it on its own with a fork.

Stews are one of the oldest kinds of foods in existence, so it’s natural that many recipes have been created in its long lifespan. The most common ingredients are meat and vegetables, particularly ones that require longer cooking times that result in more tender foods. To use beef as an example, you’ll want a well marbled cut of meat with a lot of connective tissues, such as a chuck roast or a brisket. But you don’t have to limit yourself to beef or pork; nearly all kinds of sea foods can find their way into a stew with little to no hassle. As for vegetables, your best choices are thick ones who’ll become soft and tender once the cooking is done, like potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, beats, beans, and radishes. Finally, most people like to use water to cook their stews, but I like to consider different liquids that can add flavour to the finished product. Among the best options include beer, wine, or various stocks.

No matter which meat you decide to use, be sure to get a good sear on the meat before adding the braising liquid and subsequently the remaining ingredients.  This is the key to making a good stew.  The seared meat will add flavour and ensure that the meat doesn’t toughen up or break down too much during the stewing process.  Also, add your vegetables later in the stewing process to ensure that they keep their texture and don’t simply turn to mush.  There’s nothing worse than a mushy stew.  Check out this great little instructional video from BonAppetit on browning:

Because of its simplicity and the fact thatrecipes are customizable, stew has found its way into ancient cultures all over the world, each one taking some of their native flair into the equation. In light of this, today’s recipe, from allrecipes.com, hails from Hungary.

Porkolt

Pork Porkolt (Hungarian Stew)

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/190100/porkolt-hungarian-stew-made-with-pork/

Ingredients

  • 5 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • ¼ cup Hungarian paprika
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 5 pounds boneless pork chops, trimmed
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 2/3 cup beef broth
  • 2 cups reduced fat sour cream
  • 2 (6 ounces) packaged wide egg noodles

Instructions

  • Place the bacon in a large, deep skillet, and cook over medium-high heat until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain and reserve the drippings.
  • Add the onions to the bacon and cook together until the onion is translucent. Remove skillet from heat and stir the paprika, garlic powder, and pepper into the bacon mixture. Transfer the mixture into a large stockpot.
  • Heat a small amount of the reserved bacon drippings in the skillet again over medium-high heat. Cook the pork chops in batches in the hot drippings until evenly browned on both sides. Use additional bacon drippings for each batch as needed.
  • Remove the pork chops to a cutting board and blot excess fat off the surface of the chops with a paper towel; cut into bite-sized cubes and stir into the bacon mixture.
  • Heat a small amount of the bacon drippings in the skillet; cook and stir the bell pepper in the hot drippings until softened and fragrant; drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Stir the cooked pepper into the bacon mixture.
  • Pour the tomatoes with liquid and beef broth into a stockpot and place the pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until the stew begins to thicken, stirring occasionally, about 90 minutes. Stir the sour cream into the stew just before serving.
  • Bring a pot with lightly-salted water and bring to a rolling boil; add the egg noodles to the water and return to a boil. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has cooked through, but is still firm to the bite, about 5 minutes. Drain well in a colander set in the sink. Ladle the stew over the drained noodles to serve.
  • Makes 14 servings.

 

I hope that you’ll give this recipe a try.  Fall / Winter is stew season – I’d love to get feedback from our readers regarding some of their favourite stew recipes, tips, tricks and special ingredients used by you.  Who knows, perhapse we can concoct ourselves one killer hybrid-stew based on your feedback.  Until next week, keep on cooking!!!

The Meal Plan – Pot-Roast

Hey there and welcome to another installment of the Meal Plan. Can you believe that we are already into November and are only a little more than a month away from the beginning of winter and Christmas. The months have flown by this year. And since by this point I’ve covered some of the most popular autumn foods, I figured that we should take a look at some of the other foods enjoyed around this time of year, similar to the chili newsletter released last week. This week, I am feeling in the mood for Pot-Roast.

Pot-roast is the American variation on the French dish Boeuf à la mode (beef in the style). The dish is made by slow-cooking a beef roast inside of broth, usually with some vegetables and herbs alongside. This results in a tender meat that pulls apart like the layers of an onion when it’s done.

When choosing the right kind of beef, my advice is to always go for the toughest cuts, or lean one with lots of connective tissue. Once you start slow-cooking it, those connective tissues dissolve away, leaving behind flavourful meat that’ll peel away at the slightest touch. These can include shoulder cuts, chunk roasts, briskets, rump roast, or bottom rounds.

It’s also important to take into consideration which vegetables and broths you cook alongside your roast, as their flavours will be added to the meat. The most popular vegetables cooked in pop-roast are carrots, onions, peas, potatoes, and corn, but celery, garlic, tomatoes, tomatoes, parsnip, and thyme can also be added. As for broths, most people will just use beef or chicken broth mixed with vegetable oil. But if you’d like some more flavour, you can spice it up with some vinegar, beer, and white or red wine.

If you’d like to try your hand at a pot-roast this November, myrecipes.com has a relatively simple recipe for your to cut your teeth on. Or for those of you who’re pot-roast veterans, maybe it’ll give you some ideas to play around with in your own recipes.

oh-company-pot-roast-x

Company Pot-Roast

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/company-pot-roast

Ingredients

  • 1 (2-pound) boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut in half
  • ¼ cup lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 package dried morels
  • 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 1 package carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 16 small red potatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • Rosemary sprigs

Instructions

  • Combine roast, soy sauce, and garlic in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal bag, and marinate in refrigerator at least 8 hours, turning bag occasionally.
  • Bring broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Add mushrooms. Remove from heat and cover and let stand 20 minutes. Drain mushrooms through a cheesecloth-lines colander over a bowl, reserving broth mixture.
  • Remove roast from bag, reserving marinade. Sprinkle roast with pepper, gently pressing pepper into roast. Combine reserved marinade, mushroom broth mixture, and tomato paste; stir well, and set aside.
  • Place mushrooms, onion, carrot and potato in a 6-quart electric slow cooker; toss gently.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add roast, browning well on all sides. Place roast over vegetables in slow cooker. Pour tomato paste mixture into pan, scraping to loosen browned bits.
  • Pour tomato paste mixture over roast and vegetables. Cover with lid; cook on high-heat setting 1 hour. Reduce to low-heat setting, and cook 8 hours or until roast is tender. Place roast and vegetables on a serving platter; keep warm. Reserve liquid in slow cooker; increase to high-heat setting.
  • Place flour in a small bowl. Gradually add water, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add flour mixture to liquid in slow cooker. Cook uncovered, 15 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring frequently. Serve gravy with roast and vegetables.
  • Makes 8 servings.

The Meal Plan – Halloween Edition

Hey there and welcome everyone to another installment of the Meal Plan. And so we’ve come to the last week of October. Halloween is this Saturday, and come Sunday we’ll be into November and getting ready for Remembrance Day. So for our final blog in the tenth month of the year, we’ll be following a similar style as our Thanksgiving blog. We’ll start off talking about Halloween itself before finishing off with some information about Halloween’s signature gourd, the pumpkin.

The history of Halloween, also known as All Hallows Eve, traces its roots back to ancient Celtic culture. The ancient Celts held a holiday known as Samhain, which was celebrated at the end of their harvest season on November first, and consisted of harvesting their crops en mass. This is because they believed that, on October 31st, the worlds of the dead and living overlap, and the dead would come to their homes to ruin their crops, spread sickness, and other suck havoc.

To appease the spirits, the ancient Celts would leave food and wine outside their doors, or carved faces into turnips—known as Jack-o’-Lanterns—in the hopes of scaring the spirits away from their homes. The people also wore masks whenever they left their house so that they would be mistaken for spirits as well. This way the Celts kept their houses, crops, and themselves safe from the spirits mischief. Then, on Samhain, the Celtic druids would light huge bonfires and offer sacrifices to their gods, and in return they would be gifted with insight about the coming year.

When Christianity came to England and overtook the Celts, they turned Samhain into All Saints Day, or All Hallows Day. The day before became known as All Hallows Eve until it was shortened to Halloween as we know it today. In the 19th century, Irish and Scottish immigrants to America revived several of the then forgotten traditions of Halloween, such as Souling and Guising. Souling involved saints traveling door to door asking for pastries called soul cakes, and if given, they would pray for the people’s dead relatives. With Guising, children would dress up and accept gifts such as food, wine, and money from people in exchange for entertaining them with jokes, poetry, song, and dance. These two traditions would be combined into Trick or Treating as we know it today.

These days, Halloween is the second most profitable commercial holiday after Christmas. It’s estimated that the United States spends approximately six-million dollars on costumes, candy, and decorations. And among those decorations is the North American replacement for the turnip in the carving of Jack-o’-Lanterns: the pumpkin.

Pumpkins are among the largest members of the gourd family, generally growing between 4 to 6 kilograms in weight, and the largest usually weighing in at 25kg. Generally a pumpkin is orange in colour, but it can also develop green, brown, white, or even red colourings depending on the species. It is one of the most popular commercial crops grown around the world, both for its use in Jack-o’-Lantern carvings, and as a food source.

There are many health benefits in pumpkins to consider while you’re carving them this year. For starters, pumpkins are pretty low in calories. 100 grams of pumpkin flesh provides approximately 26 calories. It’s also rich in dietary fibers, which help in digestion and balancing out your blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Pumpkins are also rich in Vitamin A, C, and E, which aid in vision, fighting off sickness, and strengthening your circulatory system respectively. Finally, the seeds of the pumpkin contain their own cornucopia of nutrients, including high protein contents and mono-unsaturated fatty acids.

I’m positive that everyone who has ever worked with pumpkins has tried either pumpkin pie or roasted pumpkin seeds at some point. Let’s face it, they are both amazing! However, these are just scratching the surface of pumpkin related foods.  We could do soups, pastas, loaves, cakes, muffins or cheesecakes, as proven in today’s recipe from food.com.  The Cheesecake Factory makes amazing cheese cakes.  I hope you give this recipe a try and enjoy!

pumpkin cheesecake

Pumpkin Factory – Pumpkin Cheesecake

http://www.food.com/recipe/the-cheesecake-factory-pumpkin-cheesecake-by-todd-wilbur-46780

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Make the crust by combining the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and 1 T sugar in a medium bowl. Stir well enough to coat all of the crumbs with the butter, but not so much as to turn the mixture into paste.
  • Put foil partway up the outside part of an 8-inch springform pan. Press the crumbs onto the bottom and about two-thirds of the way up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the crust for 5 minutes, and then set aside until you are ready to fill it.
  • In a large mixing bowl combine the cream cheese, 1 C sugar, and vanilla. Mix with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the pumpkin, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice and continue beating until smooth and creamy.
  • Pour the filling into the pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the top turns dark. Remove from the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool.
  • When the cheesecake has come to room temperature, put it into the refrigerator. Once chilled, remove the pan sides and cut the cake into 8 equal pieces.
  • Serve with a generous portion of whipped cream on top.
  • Makes 8 servings.

This past weekend I made some pumpkin cheesecake tarts using this very recipe – they were delicious!

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Have a safe and happy Halloween – see you next week!

The Meal Plan

Hey there and welcome everyone to another installment of the Meal Plan. I hope everyone had a good week last week. It’s election day in Canada; a day when we Canadians cast our votes to choose our Member of Parliament and ultimately determine which party will be leading our government for the next session.  No matter what your political preference is, we can all agree that there are many delicious autumn foods available that we can look forward to trying. Today I’m going to take a look at  one of the most popular of the current seasonal foods: butternut squash.

Butternut squash, also known as butternut pumpkin, is a species of winter squash, though it is available all year round. The name winter squash refers instead to the long shelf life of certain species of fully matured squash, thus making them ideal foods for winter time. Butternut squash is distinguishable from other forms of squash by their badge colouring and their fruit shape, which is elongated the closer it grows to the vine, but ends in a large bulb. Their taste has been described as sweet and nutty, hence the name butternut.

Nutrition wise, butternut squash contain a number of essential nutrients. It has a high amount of Vitamins, including Vitamin A and C. Vitamin A is essential to improving and maintaining your vision, as well as fighting off eye infections. Vitamin C is used in fending off illnesses and improving your immune system. Butternut squash also has high levels of fiber, which is used by your body to aid in digestion, relieving constipation, and aiding in balancing blood sugar levels and cholesterol. Finally, this squash contains a high level of calcium, a mineral which is used in the development and maintenance of bones and teeth.

Thanks to its thin skin and unique flavour, butternut squash is a very popular food used in a variety of recipes. The most popular meal is butternut squash soup, but there are other ways to prepare a meal with butternut squash, such as this recipe for an amazing vegetarian lasagna from myrecipes.com

lasagna-ck-698656-x

Healthy Butternut Squash Lasagna

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/butternut-squash-lasagna-0

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 3 cupschopped onion
  • 10 cupfresh spinach
  • ¾ cupshredded sharp provolone cheese
  • ½ cupchopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoonsalt
  • ½ teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper
  • 2large eggs
  • 1 carton part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1carton fat-free ricotta cheese
  • 3 cupsdiced peeled butternut squash
  • 6 cupsSmoky Marinara sauce
  • 12oven-ready lasagna noodles
  • 1 cupgrated fresh Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375°. Heat a large Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add spinach; sauté 1 ½ minutes or until spinach wilts. Combine provolone, parsley, salt, pepper, eggs, and ricotta cheeses in a large bowl.
  • Place squash in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and cook on high 5 minutes or until tender.
  • Coat the bottom and sides of 2 (8-inch-square) baking dishes with cooking spray. Spread ½ cup Smoky Marinara in the bottom of one prepared dish. Arrange 2 noodles over sauce; spread 1 cup cheese mixture over noodles. Arrange 1 ½ cups squash over cheese mixture; spread ¾ cup sauce over squash.
  • Arrange 2 noodles over sauce; spread 1 cup cheese mixture over the noodles. Arrange 1 ½ cups onion mixture over cheese mixture; spread ¾ cup sauce over spinach mixture.
  • Arrange 2 noodles over sauce; spread 1 cup Smoky Marinara evenly over noodles. Sprinkle with ½ cup Parmesan. Repeat procedure with remaining ingredients in remaining pan. Cover each pan with foil.
  • Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes.
  • To freeze unbaked lasagna: Prepare through Step 6. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing to remove as much air as possible. Wrap with heavy-duty foil. Store in freezer for up to 2 months.
  • To prepare frozen unbaked lasagna: Thaw completely in refrigerator (about 24 hours). Preheat oven to 375º. Remove foil; reserve foil. Remove plastic wrap; discard wrap. Cover lasagna with reserved foil; bake at 375º for 1 hour. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes or until bubbly.
  • Makes 6 servings.

Butternut squash and pasta are a great combination that’s not only delicious but nutritious as well. Enjoy and remember, eating healthy is so simple with us!