A tale of two mustards

This week I tried to different recipes for marinades that included mustard.  Now I used to hate mustard!  There were times when I would refuse to even touch the bottle to put it way after a bbq in case some of it got on my hands.  But I’ve slowly been warming up to the honey and mustard combo and have therefore experimented a bit with honey mustard marinades.

Baked Honey Mustard Chicken

I once again fell prey to the reviews!  Instead of following the directions exactly I tweaked a few things according to what other cooks had done.  That included using the sauce as a marinade instead of a glaze (this was good!) and using dijon mustard instead of regular (bad idea!).  The taste of the dijon overpowered everything!  My husband and I did not enjoy it, but my son gobbled it up.  I probably won’t make this again for a while, even following the directions, because (as I think I’ve mentioned before) too much sugar (honey) makes my boy go crazy.

Balsamic Honey Tenderloin

This recipe calls for grainy mustard, which I’ve never heard of before.  So, with the earlier dijon experience still vivid in my memory, I used regular mustard instead.

This marinade was disappointing.  Both my husband and I found the flavour to be very weak and my son wasn’t interested in it either.

 

If you have any pork tenderloin recipes that you enjoy (especially freezer friendly ones) I’d love to hear from you!

 

Meatloaf… not the singer

I went to school with a kid named Phil Collins.  Stories about him always included “… not the singer!”

All that to say that this week I was googling meatloaf.

I had the crazy idea that I could make a meatloaf with spinach.  I have a giant bag of Costco spinach to use up before it goes bad!  I found this recipe and made it with a few tweaks.  I like that it doesn’t use ketchup and Worcestershire sauce has been working its way into my heart.

I used 1lb of meat and halved all the other ingredients, except for the Italian dressing of which I used 2 Tbsp.  (I really don’t like cooking with salad dressing, which is why I rarely make a dinner recipe by Kraft.)  Also, I substituted oatmeal for the breadcrumbs.  I only have Panko breadcrumbs in the house right now and wasn’t sure how they would do in meatloaf.

I made 9 mini meatloaves using muffin tins and cooked them in the oven at 375ºF for about 23 minutes.

These were really good!  If you are a saucy kind of person, you will likely feel like it needs some sort of sauce.  Perhaps a bbq sauce would go well?  I was thinking that these would make for a good burger.  Though they didn’t hold together very well, so a little more experimenting would be necessary first.

Also, it might be interesting to replace the parmesan cheese with cheddar for a different flavour.

 

Country cooking and a little more experimenting

Country cooking –

This week I stumbled upon the Pioneer Woman’s list of 16-minute meals.  Ever since having a friend’s version of the Pioneer Woman’s smashed potatoes I’ve been meaning to test out more of her recipes.  I can’t remember why I was searching around her site this week, but boy did I strike gold.  You will likely see me testing out a number of these quick meals.

Bowtie Lasagne:

This was well received.  It was easy to make, as promised, and made a ton!  We had lots of leftovers which were perfect for lunch.  I will use it again as a replacement for spaghetti.  Although the recipe has exact measurements to follow, I found myself just eye-balling amounts.  The only mistake I made was adding too much Italian seasoning.  The recipe calls for 1 tsp.  I added that much then tasted the sauce.  Initially it seemed like there wasn’t enough flavour so I added another 1/2 tsp.  In the end it was too much.

My son, who loved it fresh the first night, for some strange reason didn’t want to eat the leftovers.  Not sure if it was a texture thing or a flavour thing, or if it was related to whatever was causing him to be strange in general this week.

A little more experimenting –

I had my heart set on making a quiche this week.  My husband and I had convinced his mom to babysit for us… on her birthday.  (She didn’t need too much convincing!)  Because she’d be babysitting over dinner, I wanted to make her and my son a special meal.

My mom has a recipe book from the 70’s that has a number of great recipes that I use (Gourmet on the Go Cookbook).  I have made the quiche recipe a number of times.  Friday afternoon when I was ready to start cooking I called up my mom to get the recipe from her.  No one was home.  Shoot!

I tried to find a recipe online that was similar to what I could remember about the recipe.  Really, all I could remember was that the recipe called for nutmeg… I think… I couldn’t find anything and in the end had to make something up as I was running out of time.

Here is what I did:

– I baked an empty pie shell as directed on the Tenderflake box, so that the crust would not get soggy

– I sautéed several handfuls of chopped spinach, then briefly added 1/3 cup of sweet onion and half of a chopped red pepper to soften them

– for the filling, I combined 4 eggs with 1 cup of milk (actually I was a little short on milk, so I topped up about 3/4 cups of milk with half and half cream… don’t tell anyone! :), and added 1/2 tsp nutmeg, pepper and salt

– I put the veggies in the pie shell, topped it with about 1/2 cup of grated marble cheddar cheese, then poured the egg mixture over top

–  I baked the quiche at 375°F for about 45 minutes

It was great!  My son loved it and my mother-in-law wondered where I had bought it.  I’ll be making this again!

A little experiment

Philadelphia Cooking Creme was on sale at the grocery store this week.  I’ve wondered about trying it out but until now had resisted spending the money on it.  But the sale pulled me in and I ended up buying two flavours: Herb and Garlic Light and Tomato Basil (which oddly enough is not listed on their website…)

I searched high and low for a recipe using the Herb and Garlic creme with chicken that used ingredients that I had in the house.  This turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated.  Although there are a number of recipes that have been published by Philly, nothing was jumping out at me.  Also, it seems that the product is new enough that no one is coming up with their own recipe an sharing it with the world.

Finally I decided that I was just going to have to come up with something on my own.  This is very difficult for me!  Unlike my husband who has superhuman taste buds and somehow just knows what flavours go together, I stress out about it and freeze.

But I did it!  I experimented and made up my very own chicken dish.  This is what I did:

  • season 4 chicken breasts with salt and pepper and bake in the oven (it took 28 minutes at 400 degrees)
  • sauté chopped orange pepper and diced onion, add in cut up chicken breast
  • add 1/4 cup water to the cooking creme, and heat in a sauce pan until warm
  • mix the chicken and veggie mixture and herb and garlic cooking creme into noodles of your choice (I used Rigatoni because we were out of Penne)

How did it turn out?  My husband loved it.  I thought it was okay.  If I were to do it again I would add a bit of tomato sauce.  But my husband loves Alfredo sauce and I’m always more of a blush girl, so that probably explains the difference in opinion.  My son loved the saucy chicken, which was a relief (he’s been very picky about eating chicken lately).  He also enjoyed the peppers and noodles.  A will all around for him!

Since I have another container of the cooking creme, I’ll have to experiment again.  But whether I’ll try the product again after that is questionable.  There is a crazy amount of saturated fat in a serving.  And although in the past I haven’t been too bothered by nutrition labels, I just can’t get over feeding that much saturated fat to my one year old.  A child really enhances your awareness of the world around you!

How much do you experiment in the kitchen?  Any tips for me?

Smorgasbord

Sorry for dropping off the face of the planet!  The month of the December has been a busy one.  Between exams, starting a new course, Christmas and trying to complete a photo book before my Groupon expires, I have had little time for writing.

However, I have still made time for new recipes!  In fact, tonight I made a list of all the new things I have tried since my last blog, and the list is actually longer than the number of weeks that have passed.

I am going to quickly share here all that I have been up to.  Some of these recipes are keepers and have been repeated already.

Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins

I have made this recipe three times now.  On my second attempt, I increased the amount of blueberries and used half a cup all-purpose flour and half a cup whole wheat.  I have decided that increasing the blueberries was a bad idea and won’t do that again.  There just wasn’t enough actual muffin compared to blueberries.  I will however continue with the whole wheat flour substitution.

Tender Pumpkin Muffins

I’ve made these muffins twice and will definitely keep them in my repertoire.  Both times I did not have buttermilk on hand, so substituted yoghurt.  They turned out great.  Next time though I think I’ll experiment with adding some cinnamon or other pumpkin pie spices.

Pumpkin French Toast

With left over pumpkin from the above recipe, you can make this!  I used the above recipe as inspiration and scaled it down for just me and my son (3 slices of bread).  The batter is really thick, but cooks just fine.  In subsequent versions I’ve added a bit of milk to thin it down, but it’s not necessary.  Just makes the batter go further.  My one year just love this!  I serve it to him plain, though I enjoy it with butter and syrup.

Parmesan-Crusted Haddock

Continuing on my quest to find a fish recipe, this was attempt #2.  There is a parmesan chicken recipe that we love that my husband suggested using for fish.  Not knowing if fish can be breaded the same way fish is, I decided to give this recipe a try instead.  We both agreed that it was good, but strange to be eating fish that tasted like chicken…

Panko Haddock

Fish attempt #3 – Success!  We have found a winner!  This will be my haddock recipe going forward, however there are still a few things to work out as this recipe is pretty vague.  This was my very first time using panko bread crumbs.  I really like them!  Though the recipe calls for way too much.  I used only 1 cup for 4 fillets and this was still too much.  The author suggests adding oregano, black pepper and ground mustard to the bread crumbs, but doesn’t suggest any quantities.  This is where I’ll focus my attention next time to try and perfect the flavour.

Pretzel M&M Hugs

My husband’s extended family gets together a few times and year.  Every time I agonize over what to bring, if anything.  I usually decide on bringing nothing.  This Christmas Eve, however, I brought this little treat which was recommended to me by a friend.  It was a big success with everyone!  I made these both with Hugs and Kisses.  The chocolates melt at different rates, so I recommend doing them in separate batches.  Christmas M&Ms don’t seem to exist in Canada, so just go to your local bulk food store and try to pick out of the bin as many red and green ones as you can without drawing attention to yourself.

The Raw Brownie

For Christmas Day I needed a gluten free, diabetic friendly dessert.  I sought out the advice of a friend who I knew would have some tried and tested recipes.  This one was highly recommended.  If you decide to give it a try make sure you have a large food processor.  I borrowed a little one from a friend and worked the poor thing until it was smoking!  The brownie was good and rich in flavour.  I was able to keep the leftovers for a second party with friends who loved it.  So give it a try.  But beware, the ingredients (though few) are expensive!

Tortilla Shells

I love tacos.

I love salsa and sour cream and cheese and all the toppings that go into making a great taco.  But for some reason our family can never finish the tortilla shells before they go bad.  Evidently we aren’t eating tacos enough!

I decided to try and fix this problem by trying a new recipe to help use them up.  I decided that a tortilla pie would be the answer.  So I searched for a recipe that had ingredients that we had in the house, and this is what I found:  http://www.marthastewart.com/343451/tortilla-pie

And here’s my review:

I’m sorry to say that it wasn’t worth the effort.  30 minutes of prep is too long when I could have just made tacos…

My second complaint is that there was WAY too much corn.  I am usually a corn fan.  I love corn on the cob and corn as a side dish, but this tortilla pie was just bursting at the seems with corn.  And I mean literally bursting.  Corn ended up everywhere!  And every bite all I could taste was corn.

My third complaint was the use of tomato paste.  This is the second recipe I have tried that requires just 2 tablespoons of the stuff.  I have yet to figure out what to do with the rest of the jar.  (I highly recommend these Sloppy Joes despite the tomato paste flaw: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/super-sloppy-joes-recipe/index.html).

What I did like about the recipe was the spinach.  It wasn’t noticeable at all!  Even my husband (who has super human taste buds) didn’t mind that it was in there.  Now, maybe that’s because all you could taste was corn… but still, I think this is a trick I will try to use more often.

So it looks like I’ll be continuing my quest to find ways to use up the tortilla shells.  If you have any suggestions, please send them my way.  I am also open to suggestions on what to do with leftover tomato paste!

Fishy business

The office building that I used to work at is beside a well known local fish and chips place.  I have never been a seafood fan, but I discovered in my years at that office that I really like batter and tartar sauce.  Particularly tartar sauce!

Nevertheless, I have recently felt the need to include more fish in my family’s diet.  When I shared this thought with my husband a few months back he was less than thrilled.  But I forged on anyway.  My first attempt at cooking fish was tilapia.  I figured with its popularity these days it would be a great place to start.  No so much!  It tasted earthy.  And yes, that means it tasted like dirt!

I have since come to the conclusion that the tilapia may not have been fully cooked, though I’m not ready to try it again at this point in time to prove my theory.  Instead I’m sticking to what I know to be good (when battered and smothered in sauce): haddock.  We have now tried and enjoyed the High Liner Pan-Sear Haddock, however, unless it’s on sale it’s a little pricey.  And so my goal is to try and replicate it on my own.

Yesterday was attempt 1.  I purchased a pack of plain High Liner frozen haddock and followed the recipe on the back for Lemon Herb Haddock.  Really the only commonality between the recipe and the Pan-Sear Haddock listed above is the use of High Liner fish and some garlic… but I had to start somewhere!

My review: I still love tartar sauce.  My husband’s review: it was good!

I call this big a success!

(Although I won’t blog about it today, I did also try a new way of cooking potatoes yesterday.  I just wasn’t in the mood for mashed potatoes so gave Rachael Ray’s Potatoes and Onions a try.  This was also a hit with my husband and I’ll most likely make it again.)