If at first you don’t succeed…

I am becoming increasingly aware of how much salt there is in store bought soup.  Even when you look at soups that have “25% less sodium…” it’s crazy how much is still in there!

We have enjoyed the Campbell’s Gardennay Red Lentil and Vegetable Soup, but still you’re looking at 20% of your recommended sodium intake in one serving.  Then I think about my little boy who surely needs significantly less salt than an adult, and I feel bad for feeding it to him (though he loves it).

So this week I decided to try making home made lentil soup.

Nothing in this recipe seems hard in anyway.  But wouldn’t you know I managed to burn my onions while I was distracted rinsing and sorting my lentil.  Thinking that it wasn’t so bad, I proceeded to add the broth and throw in my washed lentils, hoping to salvage what I was doing.  No luck!  I just managed to ruin perfectly good broth and lentils and stink up the whole house with the smell of burnt.

So off to the grocery store I went to find something quick for dinner: another soup.  Near the deli section I found jarred soups that were low in sodium… and ridiculously overpriced.  But I’m a sucker and bought a jar anyway.

Last night I decided to try again.  I carefully prepared all my ingredients in advance:  chopped the onions and carrots, measured out the spices, washed and sorted the lentils.  I was not going to repeat Monday’s fiasco!

Confession: I altered the soup’s garnish.  (It’s getting harder and harder to stick to recipes.  I think because I am getting braver about my cooking/baking.  Also, it’s ridiculously cold in Ontario right now and I am not going outside without a really good reason!)  I am not much of a fan of cilantro and forgot about the olive oil and pinch of chilli power (until just now).  Instead, I added the lemon juice as suggested and then we added a dollop of yoghurt to our bowls.  Also, I blended the whole soup until smooth instead of leaving lumps as suggested.

How did it turn out, you ask?

The soup didn’t seem to have a ton of flavour.  Though after each bite you’d get hit with some heat.

It had a consistency that seemed almost fluffy… if that makes any sense.

It was really good with the yoghurt.  That was a good addition that I think I’ll continue to use with soups like this.

Everyone ate it and my husband said I could make it again.  However, I think I’ll try a couple other recipes before settling on one.  If you have lentil soup recipe (or any soup recipe, really) that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

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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?

Three guesses

I’ll give you three guesses about what recipe I tried this week.  If you’ve been following my blog then you just might have an idea.

If you guessed that there was pumpkin involved… you be right!

If you guessed that I made muffins… you’d be close!

If you guessed that I made a delightful pumpkin loaf… you’d be right on!

(If you sighed and said “enough with the pumpkin already!”… you probably wouldn’t be alone.  I promise to make something completely different next week.)

Having become very aware of the fact that I have made A LOT of muffins over the past month and a half, I decided to try something new… -ish.  This pumpkin bread was great!  So good, in fact, that I made two loaves this week.  I had to make a couple adjustments due to the fact that I didn’t have all the ingredients, but I didn’t stray too far, so I hope you will forgive me.

Pumpkin pie spice… I’ve never really understood this because, well, the pumpkin pie recipe that I use doesn’t call for it.  So instead of the pumpkin pie spice and cloves listed in the recipe I used the following, as suggested by a reviewer of the recipe:  1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, ground cloves, ginger and nutmeg.  The loaf is quite spicy and I enjoyed it that way.  However, when I make it again I’ll try reducing the ginger to 1/4 tsp and see what that does for flavour.

Butter flavoured shortening… I didn’t know that this existed before reading this recipe!  Not having soft butter to replace this with I just used unsalted margarine (don’t judge me!).  And it turned out just fine.

My one year old son loved the bread and didn’t seem to mind the amount of spice.  My husband said it was good.  We’ve got another keeper!

UPDATE: Reducing the ginger to 1/4 tsp was brilliant!  This perfects a great loaf.

The most amazing muffins in the world!

How’s that for a claim?!  

This week I made the most delicious raspberry oat muffins.  Seriously, they were awesome!  I never knew I liked raspberries so much.  I think the secret to their great flavour was the addition of sour cream.  It was suggested to me that I could probably substitute yogurt to reduce the fat content, but there is no way that I’m going to mess with perfection.

My only tip is to watch how long you leave the muffins in the pan to cool.  Following the baking method of another muffin recipe, I used paper muffin cups then left the muffins in the pan to cool for almost 10 minutes.  When I took them out a number of the muffins had small burnt spots.  I just picked them off, but next time I won’t wait so long.

So go ahead a try these yourself.  You won’t be disappointed!

Leftovers

Friday was garbage day so Thursday night I was cleaning out the uneaten, overdue leftovers from the fridge.  Next year I’m going to resolve to waste less food!

Earlier in the week I made pumpkin muffins and pumpkin french toast (as mentioned in the Jan 1st post), and I was determined to use the pumpkin leftovers before they ended up in next week’s garbage.

Friday morning I was inspired to make pumpkin pancakes.  Unfortunately I started them too late in the morning to actually give them to my son for breakfast.  He was just too hungry to wait.  But what I discovered is that the cold pancakes make an excellent snack!  He just loved them!

Plus, they were a great breakfast hot off the griddle!  My husband who isn’t a huge fan of pancakes said he’d eat them again.

I found that once I mixed the wet and dry ingredients the batter was too thick.  So I ended up adding another 1/2 cup or so of milk to thin it out.

For some reason I always struggle with cooking pancakes.  It usually takes a couple batches in the pan and tweaks to the batter before they cook up properly.

Any tips on cooking the perfect pancake?

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!

Two-thirds full

As we speak I have a batch of cornmeal muffins in the oven.  I don’t know what got me thinking about cornmeal muffins in the first place, but I’ve been thinking about them for a few weeks now.

I am giving this recipe a try: http://www.food.com/recipe/cornmeal-muffins-109798.

I followed the recipe exactly (as promised in this post here).  So exactly, actually, that I didn’t even use paper baking cups.  This is new for me and I’m sure I over greased the pan out of fear!  (Good news!  All the muffins came out of their cups… and scattered everywhere!  How do you get them out gracefully???)

Now, this recipe didn’t say how full to fill the muffin cups, but more often than not recipes say something to the effect of “fill cups to two-thirds full”.  This is always a struggle for me.  The mathematically-minded, over-analytical side of me wrestles with what they really mean by 2/3s.  Are they taking into account the fact that the bottom of the cup is narrower than the top?  Or am I supposed to pretend that the cup is a perfectly straight cylinder?  And to be honnest I’ve just recently become aware of the fact that the recipe writer might not actually care that the cup is shaped like a conical graduated cylinder (I had to look that up…).   But I care, folks!  And so I never end up with the proper number of muffins…

Oh, and the muffins turned out well!  I now need to find an appropriate dish to serve them with.  Any suggestions?