Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday Mini Quiche


I'm not sure how this particular combination of ingredients came about, but it really works and is always a hit.  I always seem to make these around the holidays, and because they are great to make ahead and freeze, they can be kept on hand for busy nights, unexpected company, or potlucks.

If you have time to make your own dough, obviously that would be better, but since the purpose of these is to make them as a time-saver, I use frozen ready-made tart shells.

I will be taking a break for the holidays, so I will see you again in the new year.

Ingredients:

24 tart shells
1 head broccoli, chopped finely
3 green onions, sliced finely
6 large shrimp, diced
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
8 eggs
1/4 cup cream or milk
salt, pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Separate the tart shells and put them on a baking sheet to thaw while you prepare the other ingredients.

3. Chop the broccoli, onions, shrimp, and dill.  Shred the cheese.  In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, salt, pepper, and cream.


4. Divide the broccoli, green onions, shrimp, and dill between the tart shells.


5. Pour the egg mixture into the shells being careful not to over fill.

6. Top each tart with a bit of shredded cheese.


7. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes until golden brown.

8. Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.  These are great warm or even at room temperature.  If they are frozen, they can be reheated in the oven or microwave.  Enjoy!


Shopping Tips:

1. I use Tenderflake tart shells because they bake the best.

2. I also use raw shrimp as opposed to cooked.  Do not use canned.  If you can only find medium-sized shrimp, use 10 instead of 6.

Options:

1. This can also be made with asparagus instead of broccoli.  You can add the asparagus as well as the broccoli if you want.

2. Serve a few of these with a side salad for a quick meal or on their own for a satisfying snack.

Whether you are making these for your family or for guests, they are sure to become a tradition in your house as they have become in mine.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Cabbage Roll Soup


When I was a kid, one of the things my dad looked forward to when visiting his parents was his mom's famous cabbage rolls.  We didn't live in the same city, so every couple of years when we would visit, you could be sure that cabbage rolls would be on the menu.  As excited as he was, I secretly hated them.  Grandma's house was the only place we ever ate them, and the sour cabbage was an assault on my undeveloped palate.

Since that time, I have grown and so have my tastes.  Cabbage rolls are now one of my favourite foods, but I don't have the time or patience to make them, and Grandma lives three provinces away (I don't think she's made them in quite a while, either).  One night, I had a mad craving for some cabbage rolls, so I called my mom to see if she had the recipe for Grandma's special sauce.  I thought I would buy some frozen cabbage rolls, and then just make some sauce to bake them in.  Imagine my surprise when I found out that Grandma's special sauce is condensed tomato soup and ketchup!

This recipe is my attempt to harness the taste of those famous cabbage rolls while skipping the labour intensive rolling step and making a few substitutions in order to increase the health factor.

This will serve 6 - 8 people.

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp organic canola oil
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, shredded
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1 bottle passata (crushed, strained tomatoes)
28 oz diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup barley (rice can be substituted)
1 1/2 cups sauerkraut
6 mild Italian sausages, cut into rounds
1 cup milk
salt, pepper

Directions:

1. Saute onion in canola oil with a pinch of salt until translucent and golden.  Add grated carrot.

2. Add paprika, garlic powder, sugar, passata, diced tomatoes, chicken stock, barley, sauerkraut, sausage. Bring to a boil.  Lower heat and cover.

3. Simmer until barley is tender and sausage is cooked through, about 30 - 40 minutes.

4. Remove from heat, add milk, and salt and pepper to taste.

5.  If you can leave it until the next day and reheat it, it will be even better.  Enjoy!


Shopping Tips:

1. Passata can be found in Italian markets, but I have also found it in grocery stores near the pasta sauce.

2. Make sure you buy plain diced tomatoes, not the ones that have added seasonings.

3. Sauerkraut comes in two forms: naturally fermented and pickled.  The way to tell the difference is to look at the ingredients.  If it is naturally fermented, the only ingredients will be cabbage and salt.  I prefer this kind because the natural fermentation process produced beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion and health gut flora.  The pickled kind will list vinegar as an ingredient.

This soup would make a great addition to any holiday table.  Bring it to a pot luck or serve it for Boxing Day supper.  It is easy to throw together and is better made ahead of time.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Winter Pasta


I've previously posted my favourite Summer Fresh Pasta, so you are all familiar with one of the most popular dishes on our dinner table.  However, even favourites run their course and eventually everyone gets sick of them - cue the new winter fresh pasta.  One of the things I like most about the summer pasta is that it is quick and easy to make and includes lots of vegetables.  So, I took the same idea a just tweaked it a bit.

This recipe does include bacon instead of cheese, but it's only one slice for two people, so it's definitely in moderation.  Just enough to give the bacon flavour without overpowering everything.  This dish serves two people as a meal or four as a side dish.

Ingredients:

1 slice bacon, diced
1/8 tsp crushed red chile flakes
1 medium zucchini, cut in quarter moons
3 canned artichoke hearts, cut in twelfths (3 hearts out of one can, NOT 3 cans...)
6 cocktail tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
Fresh parmesan cheese, grated
salt, pepper
fresh basil, chopped (optional)

dried linguine or short pasta

Directions:

1. Put salted water on to boil in a large pot for the pasta.

2. Fry the bacon over medium high heat for about 4 minutes.  Do not add any extra oil to the pan, the bacon will release a lot of fat momentarily.

3. Add the chile flakes and the zucchini as well as a bit of salt and pepper.  Saut√© for about 8 minutes.  Once the pasta water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to directions.

4. When there are about three minutes left in the cooking time for the pasta, add the artichoke hearts, garlic, and tomatoes to the zucchini.  Add more salt and pepper to taste.  Saut√© until the tomatoes have released their juices and created a sauce.


5. Drain the pasta and add it to the veggies.  Portion into bowls and top with parmesan cheese and fresh basil if available and desired.  Basil is really more of a summer herb, but sometimes you can find it in the winter.  Enjoy!



Shopping Tips:

1. It is really important to buy cocktail tomatoes.  First of all, in the winter, the other ones are disgusting and have no taste, and second of all, they have a lot of juice, which is what creates the sauce.  Other tomatoes, especially Roma tomatoes, have less juice and will leave you with a dry pasta.

2. Do yourself a favour and buy your bacon from the Farmers Market.  The taste difference is incredible, and once you've tried it, you will never go back.  I rarely use bacon, so I splurge on the good stuff, wrap it up in small quantities and freeze it.  For this recipe, you can cook it right from frozen, so there is no need to worry about defrosting it.

Options:

1. You could add kalamata olives to this is you wanted to take it even further into the Mediterranean.


If you've tried out any of these recipes, I'd love to hear what you think.  Please drop me a line in the comments section and let me know.  Thanks!

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