Adventures in homemade, budget aware cooking.

Meats

Greek Nachos!

First of all, sorry for the hiatus.  My excuse is that I was pregnant and pregnancy nausea meant that I ate a lot of soda crackers and not much else…  And now I have a baby (one that cries) so I can’t promise I’ll be making a ton of food from scratch anytime soon.  Oh, and I don’t have a kitchen, which also poses a problem.

Let me explain.  The husband and I moved to Canada a few months ago.  We are living in a basement suite that currently does not include a kitchen.  Luckily, there is a kitchen available to us upstairs in the main house, but it just isn’t the same.

Anyways… that’s enough of a recap.  Yesterday, I watched “The Next Iron Chef” (maybe that’s not what the show’s called…) and chef Robert Irving made a ‘hotburg’ where he ground up hotdogs and mixed them in with ground meat to make a hamburger.  Yuck, right?  Well Alton Brown didn’t think so.  Robert said that nobody had mixed hotdogs and hamburgers in this way before, and Alton exclaimed “Well if they’re not, they should!” And that’s pretty much how I feel about last night’s dinner: Greek Nachos.

Greek Nachos, basic gyro ingredients in Nacho form, was something I came across on Pinterest (which if you have never checked out, you should).  And. It’s. Delicious.

a-mediterranean-twist-on-a-classic-greek-nachos.jpg

 

Greek Nachos:

Pita Chips:

– Pita bread (or other type of flat bread.  You don’t need the opening in the middle) cut into triangles and torn in half

– Olive oil

– Parmesan Cheese

– Parsley

– Cumin

– Salt

Preheat the oven to 350.  Drizzle the Pita pieces in oil and then lay them out on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with cheese, parsley, cumin and salt.  Bake for 10 minutes, or until crispy.

Meat:

– 1 lb ground lamb (or beef)

– 1 tbsp cumin

– 2 gloves of garlic, minced

– salt

– Juice of one lemon

In a saucepan, cook the ground meat until no longer red.  Add in the minced garlic, lemon juice, cumin, and salt to taste.  Continue cooking until meat is browned.

Tzatziki Sauce:

– 2 cups plain Greek yogurt

– 2 tbsp dill

– 1/2 a cucumber, grated (squeeze out the excess water if you are making the sauce significantly ahead of time, if you are going to use it all right away, it won’t matter)

– 2 gloves of garlic, minced

– Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

To make the nachos:

Layer the pita chips, meat, sauce, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, and feta cheese.  While they don’t stick together with the cheddar cheese of traditional nachos and you will probably resort to eating them with a fork, they are delicious (and easy enough to make with a newborn in one arm)!


Potstickers

Yesterday, my husband and I had a friend over for Mexican food.  We got to talking about food.  What else do you talk about when you’re eating after all?  My husband attempted to explain about all the ethnic foods I am introducing him to, but he got stuck on “Tzatziki.”  I don’t really blame him.  Finally, he abandoned searching for the word and instead brought up the potstickers we enjoyed a few days prior.  But our friend was baffled at our considering potstickers ethnic, because to him, they are a “Utah thing!”  Potstickers, as it turns out, are a Chinese thing.  I am happy they are accessible here though!

Most people eat these at Chinese food restaurants (My mum, for one, loves them).  If people do attempt to make them at home, they generally use the store-bought wrappers.  I made mine from scratch, using a recipe from “Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch” and they are so easy (and CHEAP) that I will never buy them again.

Potsticker Wrappers:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup water

Combine flour and water in a medium bowl.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface.  Knead the dough for 3-4 minutes until it appears smooth.  Form the dough into a 9 inch cylinder with your palms.  Cut the dough in half lengthwise.  Dust both pieces with flour and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let them rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile make the filling.

There are a million fillings that you can use for potstickers.  I used the traditional ginger pork filling adapted from “Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch”

  • 8 oz finely shredded napa cabbage (or regular cabbage)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 8 oz ground pork
  • 2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 scallion (green onion) finely sliced
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp rice wine (apple juice)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil (you NEED this to make it taste Chinese!)

Toss the cabbage with the salt in a large bowl and let it stand 30 minutes to remove excess water.  Rinse the cabbage, and squeeze out all the water you can.  Preheat the oven to 200F (this is so you can keep batches of cooked potstickers warm while you cook the rest).  Mix the pork, ginger, scallion, soy sauce, apple juice, sugar and sesame oil in a large bowl.  Mix in the cabbage.  Refrigerate anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours.

To assemble the dumplings, roll the cylinders out to 12 inches each (one at a time).  Cut out 3-3 1/4 inch circles.  Put a tsp of filling in the center of the dough.  Bring the top and bottom of the dough to the center of the filling and pinch shut forming a lip.  On one side of the dumpling, pinch 4 1/4 inch pleats in the dough along the lip.  When you have 10 or so ready, heat 1 tsp of oil in a skillet over medium heat.  When the oil is almost smoking, drop in the dumpling.  Fry for 2 minutes (only on one side).  Add 1/2 cup of water to the skillet.  Cover and let the dumplings cook for 5 minutes.  When the water is just about gone, remove the lid and let the potstickers cook until they are light brown and stuck.  Repeat until all the dumplings are cooked.  Serve hot with Soy Vinegar Dip.

Soy Vinegar Dip

  • 1/8 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar

Heat ingredients with 1 tbsp water over low heat for 1 1/2 minutes.  Remove from heat and spoon into small dishes.  Top with a scallion sliced paper-thin if desired.

ps. The Spring Rolls were mediocre so I will not give you the recipe here.  Do you have a delicious spring roll recipe?


Sweet and Sour Pork

Lately, Orem has found itself in the midst of a week-long thunder storm.  One night, the storm got so loud and the lightening got so near, I confess I fell asleep to visions of our apartment burning down.  In addition to this electrical storm, it felt like we were living inside a waterfall.  It rained sheets.  I think it was this sudden down-pour that got me craving Chinese food.

Let me explain, in Victoria, we ate authentic Chinese food all the time.  It also rained all the time.  So there you go.  I decided to attempt Sweet and Sour Pork.  The last recipe I used for sweet and sour chicken was very disappointing.  It wasn’t really sweet, it wasn’t really sour, and it wasn’t red.  It was a letdown.  This recipe however, from a cookbook I got second hand for fifty cents, is deliciously sweet, sour and red.  It was a success.

Sweet and Sour Pork (adapted from “Chinese Home Cooking”)

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin (cut into 1 inch pieces)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp five-flavor spice (optional, this gave the meat a kind of cinnamon-flavor)
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch
  • Oil for deep frying
  • 3 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 green bell peppers, cut into 1 inch pieces (you can use red peppers too, I just don’t like them!)
  • 5 tbsp sugar
  • 5 tbsp ketchup
  • 5 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1/2 cup water
  • 3 slices pineapple, cut into 1 inch pieces

Put the pork in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Remove and pat dry.  Mix the egg yolk, salt, soy sauce and five-flavor spice.  Marinate the meat in this mixture for at least 15 minutes.  Coat the pork in cornstarch.  Heat oil to med-high in a skillet.  Deep fry pork until light brown.  Remove and drain on paper towel.  Heat 3 tbsp oil and stir-fry garlic, onion, and green peppers, on high heat for a few minutes.  Add sugar, ketchup and vinegar.  When just boiling, add the cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened.  Add pork and pineapple.  Stir.  Serve with white rice.


Caesar Burgers

Wondering what we did with those buns?  Well, besides eat them with jam, we did make hamburgers… no Caesar’s Burgers!  These tasty burgers come from my cookbook “A Taste of Canada” and highlight the flavours of a Caesar Salad in a Hamburger. (Truthfully, I have no idea what that has to do with Canada…)

Caesar’s Burgers (adapted from “A Taste of Canada”

  • 1 lb ground beef (10-15% fat is okay)
  • 1/8 cup Parmesan cheese (NOT processed…)
  • 2 tbsp Worchester sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp Caesar dressing
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  (You might want to add more liquid / bread crumbs to achieve the consistency you desire.)  Using your hands, form into 4 patties.  Grill for 5-10 minutes.  Meanwhile, cut open your Kaiser buns, brush each side with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt.  Broil until toasted.  Remove the buns from the oven, layer with lettuce, meat, and some more Parmesan cheese.  ENJOY!


Pozole

My friend Hilary eating some real PozoleI have a t-shirt that says “Hecho en Mexico.”  While some Mexicans are pasty white and have ocean blue eyes, I am not one of them, at least not by birth.  Growing up, Tex-Mex Tacos constituted my repertoire of Mexican food.  After a year and a half in Southern California, my culinary and cultural boundaries were blown to pieces.

I loved the traditional sopes, enchiladas, burritos, taquitos, tostadas, arroz con leche, horchata, carne asada, pozole, etc.  I lived those 18 months in bliss, food heaven.  However, when I came home, I was in shock.  I initially tried to survive by dosing everything in Tapatio (Hot Sauce).  Eventually, I realized that I was going to have to learn how to cook authentic Mexican food or suffer for the rest of my life.

A few days ago I found a recipe for Pozole for a crock pot (two of my favourite things! Yipee!)  It was delicious!  The husband’s response says it all: “You should keep that recipe!” Before we get to the recipe part, let me share with you some disgusting history of the soup/ stew Pozole.

Apparently, “pozole was made to be consumed on special events. The conjunction of corn (usually whole hominy kernels) and meat in a single dish is of particular interest to scholars because the ancient Mexicans believed that the gods made humans out of cornmeal dough. According to research by the National Institute of Anthropology and History and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, on these special occasions, the meat used in the pozole was human. After the prisoners were killed by having their hearts torn out in a ritual sacrifice, the rest of the body was chopped and cooked with corn. The meal was shared among the whole community as an act of religious communion. After the conquest, when cannibalism was banned, pork became the staple meat, as it “tasted very similar”, according to a Spanish priest.”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posole)

While that little tidbit of information might be unappealing, Pozole certainly is not.

Pozole for the Slow Cooker

  • – 2 lbs shoulder chuck pork, fat trimmed, and chopped in 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 tbsp oil olive
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can oven roasted chilies (7 oz)
  • 2 cans white hominy (15 oz)
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced chopped cilantro

Heat oil in a skillet on medium-high.  Brown meat in portions.  Add to the slow cooker.  Add all ingredients through cumin.  Stir.  Heat on low for 5-6 hours.  Add salt, pepper and cilantro.  Cook for another hour. Laddle soup into bowls.  Serve with shredded lettuce, chopped onions, cilantro, lime wedges and heated corn tortillas.  (Sometimes it is served with radishes too, but I don’t like radishes.)

(It is red or green depending on whether you use red or green chilies)


Homemade Hamburgers

Summertime is a time for Barbecue.  Hamburgers are simple and great Barbecue.  My Dad makes his own patties.  He always has.  I never had before, but how hard can it be, really?

It turns out, it’s not that hard at all.  Dad’s hamburgers consists of lean ground beef, chopped onions and garlic.  I decided to make mine a little bit more complex, which I probably shouldn’t have done because it could have turned out terribly wrong.  Lucky for me, it didn’t.  I read somewhere that you can put whatever you want in homemade hamburgers – so that’s just what I did.

Sarah’s Hamburgers (they are a little bit spicy)

– 1lbs (85/15%) ground beef – I always buy the leanest ground beef I can find, but it turns out that when you grill hamburgers, they need a little fat.

– 1 egg

– 1/4 cup Italian style bread crumbs

– 1/2 an onion, chopped

– 1 tbsp Worcester Sauce

– 1 tbsp Barbecue Sauce

– 1 tbsp garlic salt

– 1 tbsp seasoning salt

– 1 tsp red chili flakes

– dash of Tabasco sauce

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Form into patties (makes 2).  Try to spread the patties out as much as you can to minimize shrinking.  Fire up the barbecue and cook 10 minutes or so, until they are no longer pink in the middle.

I didn’t have a chance to snap a picture of the completed burgers because we ate them so fast…


Szechwan Beef Stir-Fry

I grew up on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.  One of the things I miss most about my homeland is the ethnicity and multiculturalism that abound therein.  Downtown Victoria houses a small Chinatown.  There are lions guarding the entrance and an ornate red gate.  It’s a marvelous sensation when you walk down the normal city streets and turn to enter the vibrant and always crowded Chinatown.  

Growing up, we would often head to Don Mee’s Dim Sum (Chinese Brunch) and sit there for hours as tiny dishes stacked on carts made the rounds of the restaurant.     While the authentic Chinese meal involved things I would never touch in a million years (especially during my stunt as a vegetarian), it was a special time for my family.  You have to wait for the carts to bring you what you want instead of ordering it.  You have to wait.  Waiting what felt like hours for the delicious honey buns, I learned to equate eating with a much greater purpose.  Eating became a chance to spend time with those I love.

Sometimes here, cooking for my husband, who tends to devour his meal in 2 minutes flat, I forget the truths I learned on a small, living street in Chinatown.  I forget that cooking and eating are about so much more than food.

While yesterday’s dinner, Szechwan Beef Stir-Fry, really isn’t something they serve at Don Mee’s, it still had an authentic and fresh air about it that superseded any of the Panda Express-like Chinese food that is easy to find in Orem.  It took me back to that red and green and yellow street with dragons and small boutiques and street markets.  It took me back to a place where food equals family and friends and important moments with them.

Szechwan Beef Stir-Fry (sorry, no pictures… but I assure you it’s both beautiful and delicious)

(adapted from Better Homes and Garden)

  • 16 ounces sirloin steak cut into thin strips (cut along the bias for tender pieces)
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 bell pepper (I like green)
  • 1 can cut baby corn

For the sauce:

  • 3 Tbsp orange juice
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp Hoisin Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 – 1/4 red pepper flakes

In a large skillet or a wok, heat oil to medium-high heat.  Add carrot and cook for 2 minutes.  Add pepper and corn.  Cook another 1-2 minutes, or until the veggies are tender-crisp.  Set aside.  Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients for the sauce.  Add beef to the skillet.  Heat until it is mostly cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Add the sauce to the middle of the skillet and heat, stirring until the sauce thickens.  When the meat is cooked through and the sauce is thick, add the veggies back to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes until all the flavours meld.  Serve over steamed rice.