Monday, July 31, 2006

Corn is the reason for the season!

I had my first LOCAL corn this weekend. Corn starts to convert its sugars to starch the minute it is picked from the stalk so the longer it has to travel to get to you, the less sweet it will be. That's why I don't eat fresh corn that has been shipped in. I want it right from the farm, picked that morning. And this weekend, that's what we got. I did it 3 ways. I boiled some, bbq'd some and roasted one piece in the husks for Tim. And it was all good... There is nothing like carmalized corn kernels hot off the bbq. I basted it with olive oil and herb and garlic seasoning. I used some of the same inside the corn I did with the husk still on. We're always so happy to have good corn, we never bother to play with the flavors but just like anything else you put on the 'que, corn can be basted, marinated and sauced up!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Cottage Prep, Again!

This idea of preparing dishes ahead for a weekend with a small kitchen or a busy weekend or even a busy week is definatly worth exploring if you are a busy person. I love going to the cottage knowing not only are my meals planned but the most time consuming work is done. So far today I have made a tuna and white bean salad with my homemade italian seasoning mix and fresh basil (this involved opening 2 cans, sprinkling on the seasoning and chopping basil, that's it!) and I've taken this weeks leftover curry chana dahl (chickpeas) and added some cooked frozen spinach and peas and some finely diced red onion. Now I have a some great lunch salads or side dishes.

Earlier in the week I made my fat free ceasar dressing so I have some of that leftover plus some lettuce so we'll have a salmon ceasar salad for dinner when we get there tonight. All I have to do is wash and tear the lettuce, toss with the dressing and grill the salmon. Done!

For Saturday night it is the traditional beer can chicken. Tim's son is a bit fussy about what he likes on the bbq so once I found out he likes the whole chicken done this way, it's how I always do it for him. And we use the leftover chicken for chicken salad sandwiches during the week. Tim's fav is buffalo chicken salad which uses mayo, hot sauce (tabasco), blue cheese dressing or real blue cheese, depending on what I have on had, and grated carrots. Just don't put it on the bread until right before eating because it will get really mushy!

See ya at the cottage! I'll be the one with the cocktail in my hand....

Salt Free Reviews

I want to comment on last nights dinner of grilled chicken leg and thigh pieces with stuffed eggplant. I used no salt but we didn't miss it. On the chicken I squeezed some fresh lemon juice and it didn't over power the taste of the chicken. Lemon is often used in small quantities to 'brighten' the flavor of food, much like salt. I also sprinkled some of my homemade fish and poultry seasoning and a store bought, no salt Garlic and Herb seasoning. It was tasty! And as for the stuffed eggplant, I used brown rice, chopped peppers and red onion that had been grilled earlier in the week and feta cheese. For seasoning I used a little garlic and some of my homemade greek seasoning. The feta has some sodium in it but I didn't add any extra and it was delish.

Remember, my homemade seasonings are just dried spice and herb mixes I've done up ahead of time. Had I not had them on hand I would have used some of my dried herbs to get the same results.

Experiement! You just may surprise yourself!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Stuff it! And Love it!

Tonight I'm stuffing some baby eggplant I picked up last weekend. This stuffing would also work for peppers, tomatoes or zucchini. I have leftover rice from last nights Indian dinner. I used the brown rice for the extra health kick but white would work too. I have leftover diced peppers and red onions from earlier in the week when we had grilled portabello burgers. What a nice meal grilled porties make! And because it just veggies, you can splurge with a really nice cheese melted on top of the porties. We like Cambazola or blue cheese but you could use anything. It's a great time to indulge in your favorite cheese because you're having such a healthy meat alternative. But I digress.

For the stuffing for my eggplants, I'm using rice, peppers and red onions and feta cheese. Add a little minced garlic and some Greek seasoning (I used my homemade seasonings but you can use store bought seasonings or just toss in some dried oregano and mint, maybe some rosemary). And you're good to go. I'm going to grill some chicken legs with the thighs attached to go with it. I will probably remove the skin from the chicken to save on fat, drizzle with some lemon juice and sprinkle some seasoning on. Again, I'm using my own poultry seasoning but you could use store bought poultry seasoning or just sprinkle on some thyme, sage, savory, tarragon, herbs de Provence or whatever you feel like. Want to keep it Greek tasting, use your Greek seasoning or use some oregano and mint. I might see what my fresh herbs are like... I know I have some chives, basil and rosemary. Hmmm, that might be interesting. If I use the fresh herbs, I won't remove the skin. I will put the fresh herbs under the skin! Mmmm, I better go find some lunch...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Italian Meal, part 2!

I forgot to mention that last nights meal resulted in 8 servings. Which means I had freezer meals! This is the key to keeping healthy meals on the table when you have a busy life! Make extra of freezer friendly meals like pasta and tonights indian dinner. Then on the nights when you don't have time, ta da, dinner is served! And if you do this often enough, you will have a good selection in your freezer so it's not a week of pasta or chili or curry or whatever.

And last night's meal wasn't huge, one standard box of rotini, 1 lb of steak, half a head of cauliflower and broccoli (already cut up!) and a green and yellow zucchini. Talk about spreading your food dollar around!

Indian Food, Italian Food and No Power!

Tonight I'm making Indian food. I have a lot of the necessary whole spices. Tonight I'm making peas and panir. Panir, or paneer, is a type of cheese. I managed to find some last week while in Halifax at Pete's Frootique. I also have some Chana Dahl and some split Mung Beans so I'll also make a bean dish of some sort.

A while ago I had gotten a bag of dried red chilies at the asian market in Halifax. These are spicy chilies. I use them in dishes that call for any type of chili. The recipes I'm looking at tonight all call for green chilies but since I have these dried red ones on hand, I'll use them. They are super hot so I'll only use one or two. I love buying dried ingredients. They are so convenient to have on hand.

Last night I made a pasta dish that involved no real sauce except for the juices from the beef and some pasta water. I incorporated some chunks of fontina and mozzarella cheese. It's hard to do this without the cheese melting into one large clump, which is what happened to me last night. The secret is to quickly toss in the cheese, get it off the heat, stir just enough to spread the chunks around and then serve. I stirred too long and left it on the heat so the cheese melted too much. In this dish I also had slices of flank steak, brocccoli, cauliflower and zucchini and fresh basil. I had pre-grilled the steak and let it rest while I made the rest. I sauteed the veggies with my italian blend and olive oil. I boiled the pasta and saved 2 cups of the water before I drained it. I use that water to moisten the mixture before I put the cheese in. The interesting part about all this, I did it all on the bbq because we had lost power!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Homemade Condiments

Today I've been taking the time to make my own spice mixtures. Why, you ask? Because I am tired of the commercial products that typically have salt and sugar added to them. I like the convenience of having spice mixs right on hand but I want to control what goes in them. I have a lot of whole spices so it was just a matter of grinding them a bit. I did an Italian, Greek, Mexican, Grilling, Asian Curry, Fish and Poultry and, last but not least, an all purpose blend. Tonight we're going to try the italian blend with Broccoli and cheese on polenta. We'll see how they turn out. It was a lot of fun to create these blends. I hope they taste good!

I'm also making my own Ketchup, Dijon Mustard and BBQ Sauce. It really allows me to control the sodium levels in our diet. I've already made the Dijon Mustard and it tastes way better than the bottled stuff I had in the fridge. So I dumped out my bottled stuff and will use the same jar for my homemade stuff. I'll label it as homemade and date it so I'll know when to toss it if we haven't used it all. It's good for about 6 weeks. I had to make it to go into the BBQ sauce, which I'm doing next. The dijon was easy, just mustard powder, white wine, olive oil, cider vinegar and sugar. Everything but the mustard powder was just small quantities. Very healthy!

So this is what The Gourmet Goddess does on her weekends...

Monday, July 17, 2006

KISS for Dinner

Keep It Simple Stupid! And that often applies to dinner. I've made the treck to visit my mom to do some cooking for her. She has broken her foot so I'm going to do some meals for her freezer so she won't have to worry about dinner for a while. But by the time I got here it was a little late to plan dinner... Or was it?! See dinner doesn't have to be complicated. On a hot day there is nothing better than a good salad with some grilled meat on top. (We had chicken) Add your favorite salad dressing and you are done. How easy is that?! And nutritious! Want to make it even easier? Get the pre-bagged salad greens (we had the baby romaine bagged stuff). Then add another veg or two, like tomatoes, cucumber, red onion or mushrooms. That's it, your back on the deck, chatting with the neighbors, having a beer. If you want to make it a little more substanial, add a baked potato done in the microwave.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Fried Clams - The Saga Continues

We headed to St. Martins yesterday. The dogs had to stay on leash but they got a swim anyway. And we wanted to try out the fried clams at the Sea Side Restaurant right on the beach. They were disappointing to say the least. Too chewy. Now the lobster roll on the other hand was perfect! They are famous for their chowder but it was too hot to try it. I have a hard time eating a good chowder on a hot day. So lets sum up. Ossie's Seafood Take Out in Bethel (between Saint John and St. Andrews on the highway) is still tops. The take out in Alma is also excellent but we had a little sand, very little but that probably proves that it came right from the dock there. Our next stop is Shediac.

Another thing I'd like to do is to go to Oven Head Salmon Smokers also in Bethel and Wolfhead Smokers in L 'Etang (both are accessible from the highway going from Saint John to St. Stephen, TransCanada #1, they are both close to St. George) and get samples and compare. It's not a major tasting but it would be fun. We have friends who love good smoked salmon so I think we'll get some samples before they come for a weekend. (Yup, Tan, that means you!)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Cottage Prep

Today I'm prepping for a hot weekend at the cottage. Although right now it is a lot cooler there than it is here. Hopefully that will be the story all weekend even though the forecast says otherwise. I'm trying to get as much stuff done here, in the cool house before we head down. I've got a potato salad made (leftover from last night). I made a tuna and white bean salad. You have to use the tuna packed in olive oil to get the good flavor. It's a yummy salad to take on the go. Nothing to spoil in the heat either so it makes a great picnic lunch. Here's the recipe:

  • 1 6 0z can of tune packed in olive oil - DON'T DRAIN
  • 1 12 oz can of white kidney beans or cannelini beans,rinsed and drained.
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • handfull of cherry tomatoes or a small tomato diced
  • about 1 tablespoon of fresh basil, chopped but if you don't have fresh basil, italian seasoning will do in a pinch. I had some pesto so I threw that in instead.

Mix it all together and your done.

I'm going to do a beer can chicken and some fresh veggies I get at the market that is handy to our cottage. And I'm also going to make the following for lunch.

  • Mutigrain bread
  • Proscuitto
  • Grilled Peppers
  • Grilled Red Onion
  • Arugula
  • Basil
  • and whatever cheese is already at the cottage but a fresh mozzarella would be nice but I'm might try Havarti.

I'll grill the peppers and onions and then throw the bread on just to get a little crispy. Then I'll assemble it all into a sandwich. I can't wait to try it.

And this is the plan for Sunday's dinner. Portobello Burgers!

  1. Portabellos Mushrooms
  2. Whole Wheat Buns
  3. And, depending on what I find, I could go with
  • Feta, Tomato, Olives, Cucumber, Peppers Oregano OR
  • Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Summer Squash (Zucchini), Arugula, Basil

I'll dice it up and make it as a topping for the Portabellos. Grill up the Portabellos on the grill and call it a burger!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Make Ahead Dinner Party

Tonight I'm make a "make ahead" meal for my better half to share with some guys he's entertaining. I'm going out for a girls night. I have beer brined pork chops that have been marinating in beer and molasses since yesterday. I'll make a roasted red onion and potato salad which they can have cold. I'm also doing a hot melon salad. I'll cook up the onions and melon ahead and have the feta and and toasted pine nuts ready to toss in. All he'll have to do is heat up the onion and melon and toss in the feta and pine nuts. He'll also need to cook the pork chops but he can manage that. It's raining here today so he may have to do them in the pan on the stove versus the grill, we'll see. Last but not least, I'll add in a tomato, mozza and basil salad which I can have all ready on the table! Plan ahead when you entertain, it makes life so much easier!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Stuff it!

Okay, I've been having way too much fun stuff things lately. Now you may wonder what in the heck I'm talking about. I'm talking about stuffing anything, roasts, chicken breasts, pork chops, veggies, whatever with whatever I feel like! It's a little labour intensive but still a lot of fun. Trying to find the right combination of ingredients can be an interesting challenge for the gourmet goddess in me. First you need a good stuffing vessile. Thick pieces of meat work well as do veggies that naturally have hollow areas such as peppers and tomatoes. But you can also hollow out an area in such things as a potatoes, zucchini, eggplants. And then there is also the pile on method that you might use in mushrooms or on bread. Although you could hollow out a loaf of bread and stuff it.

The second thing you need is a good stuffing. Mine usually involve cheese. I rarely use a "starch" (potato, rice, bulgur wheat, couscous, etc) in my meat stuffings but I will use breadcrumbs. I save the 'starch' stuffings for the veggies. I don't know why, it's just my thing. Couscous and bulgur wheat are great stuffings because you just soak them in water and they are good to go. No waiting for cooking and then cooling time like you would need with good rice or potatoes. Add some cheese and herbs and you're done. Or you can get adventurous and add even more veggies. Chopped spinach or broccoli are excellent additions to stuffing, as is onions, mushrooms, grated carrot, tomatoes.

I like to make stuffing for meats out of spreads. Pesto works well. I also have a nice white bean spread made from white kidney beans, basil, garlic and parmesan cheese all pureed in the food processor. Good on a cracker or piece of bread but spread a beef roast cut open with the mixture, tie it back up (cotton butchers twine is a must, you can get it in the grocery store just ask) and you have a company worthy piece of meat. And the next day you can take thinly sliced leftovers on a good bread for lunch!

Cooking method of choice for me is the indirect method. It allows the stuffed item to cook all the way through, or if your stuffing is already mostly cooked, it allows the stuffing to warm all the way through and for the cheese to melt. Delish!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Fried Clams

I have officially declared this the summer of FRIED CLAMS! We are on a tasting mission to discover which ones are the best around. So far Ossie's between Saint John and St. Andrews is great but their homemade tartar sauce has too much dill. I'd get the regular Kraft tartar sauce in the future. The take out in Alma was the spot for sampling this weekend. Tasty but there was a small bit of sand in a couple of the clams. That can be a little off putting. And for the price of $10.50, there should have been more. Check back to see where we head next in the search for the best fried clams!

The Heat of Aruuuuugula.

It's been a while since I have posted... not because I have stopped eating! We were away to Newport Rhode Island for the long weekend. And since we have been back it's been hot, hot, hot. Everything has gone on the bbq. The next time you buy a bbq, really try to get one with a side burner. It's a real blessing on those extra hot days. I can boil pasta or steam veggies without heating up the house. So many of us just think of our bbqs as a place to grill meat. But there is so much more you can do. I like cooking with indirect heat. I roast meat or veggies by turning up all the burners to 'hi' to let the bbq warm up, once it's good and hot, I turn off the burners under the spot I'm going to put the food. I put the food on and close the lid. And clean up is a breeze!

This past week I found a box of arugula at the grocery store. It's not something we get in bulk like that here. Mostly you see it in the herb section in little bags. I'm so excited, we have some many uses for arugula. For those of you not familiar with arugula, it's peppery in taste and does well when balanced with a sweet or salty taste. Last night I served Planked Salmon with Maple Dijon Dressing and Parmesan on a bed of Arugula. It was perfect. The contrasts of flavors was just right. Tonight I'm making those Swedish pizzas I talked about. I have great multi-grain crusts I got at the farmers market. The pizzas consist of a little tomato sauce (I use my favorite pasta sauce that's low in sodium) Proscuitto, Arugula, Mozza and Parmesan. Yum. And I'll do them on the grill using the indirect heat method! Quick and Easy!