Potato Salad…Hold the Mayo

I must confess that I’ve fallen a bit behind this week but I’ve been taking my phone with me so I have a few different items I’ve made recently. I just need to get them documented here.

My mom’s birthday was this week and we offered to host my parents for dinner where we went with Pulled Pork on a Bun and German Potato Salad.

Neither of my parents are big fans of mayo but they are huge fans of vinegar which makes this salad ideal for serving when they come over. It is also a great choice for summer picnic fare as it is a version of potato salad that is meant to be served at room temperature or warm so you can put it out at your BBQs and not worry about making anyone ill from mayo sitting in the sun.

This recipe is from the folks over at Epicurious.com.

Potatoes - 2 quarts = 8 cups. Boiled, cubed and set aside.

Potatoes – 2 quarts = 8 cups. Boiled, cubed and set aside.

First step as with most potato salads is the get your potatoes ready. I estimated one potato per person plus on extra to attempt to get the right amount I would need to make this salad, which worked out to 8 potatoes total. I boiled the potatoes whole so as to get them fork tender. As with the scalloped sweet potatoes earlier this week I just kept my eye on them while they boiled and pulled them from the water when I could get a steak knife in with little resistance.

It is important to give these guys plenty of time to cool so I would recommend getting your potatoes done well ahead of time. You could cube them first before boiling but the time I did that I had really soft potatoes and it almost became German Mashed Potatoes. The cooling, in my experience, makes it easier to cube the cooked potato as well.

I also left the skins on. I’ve never actually peeled potatoes when making this but I’m pretty sure you could if you wanted to.

Thick sliced bacon.

Thick sliced bacon.

This is a vinaigrette dressing but the heart and flavour of your roux will come from the bacon drippings as your oil component so good quality bacon is a must. I also cooked this on a lower heat to make sure I got crisp bacon and a good amount of drippings. Even the bits that get stuck to the bottom of the pan will get used in the end.

Ingredients -

Ingredients  (Starting left ) – Chopped onion, cider vinegar, water, flour, sugar, mustard, salt, black pepper and rosemary.

The recipe calls for vinegar and I had some cider vinegar in the fridge so I went with that. Most folks I know that make this recipe tend to make that substitution as well.

I also realized a bit too late that I had no dried mustard in the house. While I was ripping the spice cabinet apart Kevin went online and with a quick search he assures me that you can use yellow mustard in a ration of 3:1. So in this case 3 teaspoons of yellow mustard for my 1 missing teaspoon of powdered dry mustard.

Dressing in the frying pan.

Dressing in the frying pan.

Using the same frying pan as I made the bacon in I make the dressing pretty much as described in the recipe but I give it a bit of time to come together in between steps. For example I put the onions in and let them fry in the bacon drippings for a few seconds before adding the flour to make the roux.

With the vinegar and water I took the time to let them de-glaze the pan so I could take up the bits of bacon stuck to the bottom of the pan before adding the sugar, spices and mustard. I also gave the sugar time to melt into the dressing before added the spices and mustard and letting is cook down.

After I have added everything in I let it go and took it off the heat when the dressing could coat the back of a spoon nicely.

One of my best chopping jobs to date.

One of my best chopping jobs to date.

While I was giving time to my dressing ingredients to come together I turned my attention the parsley. I often find chopping to be the more difficult part of cooking mostly because I’m not sure when I have a chop or a mince going. I was very proud of this chopping job though. Probably one of my best to date.

Close up of the finished salad

Close up of the finished salad.

Now when combining everything together in the bowl I really recommend a large rubber spatula or spoonula so that you don’t run the risk of having your potatoes getting mashed while you are working the dressing through out the potatoes, bacon and parsley.

There are never any leftovers of this salad ever.

German Potato Salad

Recipe from Epicurious.com

Ingredients:

  • 8 slices bacon
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 4 teaspoons chopped onion
  • 2/3 cup vinegar (I substituted with cider vinegar)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon powdered  dry mustard (I was out so used 3 teaspoons of yellow mustard at a ratio of 3:1)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled rosemary leaves
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) cooked diced potatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preparation:

  1. Boil potatoes and set aside to cool. When you can handle them easily cut into cubes.
  2. Fry bacon until crisp.
  3. Remove from pan, drain and crumble.
  4. Add flour and onion into the bacon fat left in the pan.
  5. Stir in vinegar, water, sugar, salt and spices. Cook only until mixture is of medium thickness.
  6. Add to potatoes, parsley and crumble bacon. Mix carefully (I suggest using a large spoonula) to prevent mashing the potatoes.
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Simple Valentine’s Day Dinner

Today is February 14th! A day for love, a day of flowers…

A day to enjoy wonderful food with those you love.

With three kids we don’t often go out on Valentine’s Day proper often opting for a date night around the day instead. Last year Kevin cooked our celebratory meal so I was on deck to come up with a meal that would be ideal for a night where my daughter is scheduled to have dance until 5:30.

While reading my morning paper I saw an ad for a local fish shop which stated the had red and white heart shaped cheese ravioli on sale for Valentine’s Day and I decided I would get that to be the central point of my dinner for my family.

A quick Google search for “Pasta Sauce for Cheese Ravioli” returned this result from The Chew television show. It looked simple and quick. Ideal for a busy week night.

My ingredients starting from top left: 2 cups chopped cremini mushrooms, red and white heart shaped cheese ravioli, parmesean cheese, two sprigs of rosemary, and chopped onions and garlic.

My ingredients starting from top left: 2 cups chopped cremini mushrooms, red and white heart shaped cheese ravioli, parmesan cheese, two sprigs of rosemary, and chopped onions and garlic.

I had to make a couple of substitutions for ingredients. I wasn’t able to find shallots so I went with about some chopped sweet onion and added an extra clove of garlic on Kevin’s suggestion. I also followed the cooking instructions on the packages of pasta as they were frozen raviolis. Also the heart raviolis were a bit smaller than a square ravioli so I went with 2lbs over just a 1 1/2 lbs recommended in the recipe.

Butter and olive oil together in the pan.

Butter and olive oil together in the pan.

Here are my two tablespoons of butter and olive oil in the frying pan heating up. This is the first time I’ve ever put this combination of oils together so I wasn’t sure what to expect as it heated up.

Rosemary and Mushrooms in the pan

Rosemary and Mushrooms in the pan

Once the oils are hot I added the mushrooms and rosemary. The first thing I noticed is that the rosemary became really fragrant as it warmed up in the oils. The mushrooms browned very smoothly and I went twice around the pan with my pepper grinder for the black pepper and gave a health dash of salt.

Onions and garlic in.

Onions and garlic in.

At this point I was struck by how the green of the rosemary became as the sauce comes together. The components also gave off a really great smell. My kids mentioned more than once that it smelled really good.

Red and White Heart shaped pasta, cooked and drained.

Red and White Heart shaped pasta, cooked and drained.

I found this pasta really easy to cook. 10 minutes at at soft boil and the ravioli was perfectly cooked and ready to be put into the pan with the sauce components.

Pasta water.

Pasta water.

I was supposed to reserve some of the pasta water to use in the sauce. The red raviolis managed to leave some colour in the water but it didn’t affect the sauce in terms of flavour or colour.

Finished Meal!

Finished Meal!

The final step of adding the two remaining tablespoons of butter with the pasta water and the parmesan with the raviolis to the pan went in short order and it didn’t take long for the whole thing to come together nicely. My family enjoyed every bite with even my 3 year old eating his portion in under 10 minutes.

Strawberry Muffins from Fried Green Tomatoes

Strawberry Muffins from Fried Green Tomatoes

Of course what is Valentine’s Day without something sweet to end the day. Kevin is a bigger fan of strawberries instead of chocolate and when I saw this at the Fried Green Tomatoes Facebook page I knew I had to get some for my family to complete our dinner. They were delicious and again even the non sweet eating 3 year old enjoyed every bite. The 3 year old  tends to ask for desserts and never finishes them.

This was not the case here.

All in all a great simple dinner paired with a great dessert.

Cheese Ravioli with Garlic, Mushroom and Rosemary

From ABC’s The Chew

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds of cheese ravioli (fresh or dried)
  • 4 tablespoons of butter (divided)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 cups cremini mushrooms
  • 4 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)
  • 1 large shallot (minced)
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 1/3 cup Parmigiano Reggiano

Preparation

Heat a large pot of boiling water over high heat and season generously with sale (make it taste like the ocean).

Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and the olive oil. Once hot, add rosemary sprigs and mushrooms. Toss the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile drop the ravioli in the boiling water and stir with a wooden spoon.

Then add the garlic and shallot to the pan and toss to coat. Cook 2 – 3 minutes, or until the garlic and shallots are cooked through (I didn’t have a shallot so I substituted some chopped sweet onion and an extra clove of garlic).

Cook the ravioli one minute shorter than the packaged instructions (I followed the package instructions as I used a frozen ravioli).

Drain ravioli, reserving the pasta water, and put into the saute pan. Add about 1/3 cup of the pasta water along with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add Parmigiano and toss the pasta until the sauce is creamy and emulsified. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 – 6 servings

Pizza Soup – It’s for Dinner!

This past Saturday night was a night out to celebrate with friends.

When we have sitters come in and I know we will be out past dinner time we try have something simple on hand so that they and the kids can eat and we are assured it is something filling and hardy.

I wasn’t about to let not being home throw me off my challenge of making new soups on a regular basis while the weather is cold. So I dug out my handy Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker and went to find something fun for the kids to try.

Some time on Google later I decided to go with Pizza Soup.

Now this wasn’t the first Pizza Soup I’ve tried to make. I tripped over a recipe by accident one day and I did make it in my slow cooker but the reviews were mixed and the flavour could have been stronger. So I was thrilled to find this variation.

One of the things I love about this recipe is the mix of veggies. Makes it easy to get some solid veggie content into my kids but under the guise of pizza. Talk about win win.

When I start to cook I’m a huge fan of going through the recipe and prepping all my ingredients. This way when I put it together it flows like a Food Network show.

Starting with our onions and garlic.

Starting with our onions and garlic.

Now the first change I made is used olive oil in my version. We keep it in the house as our oil of choice and since I was going with a dish inspired by Italian flavours I hoped this would add another layer. Here I have my onions and minced garlic in my heated olive oil. I gave the onions a bit more time to soften and sweeten as I was cooking for younger palates.

Adding in the pepperoni, mushrooms and bell peppers.

Adding in the pepperoni, mushrooms and bell peppers.

Once I had my onions and garlic where I liked it I added the other ingredients as the recipe suggested. Now you have the option of going with ham, turkey or pepperoni and I went with pepperoni as that is the one pizza topping that all 3 of my kids agree on. I did go with Winnipeg Old Country Pepperoni because I knew that a quality product would make the flavour really pop.

Now for my friend who is a vegetarian I would suggest she go with her favourite vegetarian meat product like vegetarian bacon or you could always go with some portobello mushrooms along with the other mushrooms listed in the recipe. Using vegetarian broth is a suggestion from Canadian Living so I think this would be an easy recipe to make for a vegetarian family.

Transferring to the Slow Cooker

Transferring to the Slow Cooker

Now I’ve gotten my ingredients to a good point where there is very little liquid in the frying pan and transfer them into my slow cooker. At this point I get to gauge if I am going to have enough for the kids, the babysitting teenagers and the little friend of my 3 year old who are all hanging out in our home for the evening. I doubled the recipe as printed and once I had my onions, garlic, pepperoni, mushrooms and bell peppers in the crock I was confident I would be able to have enough for everyone to enjoy just by how far the ingredients went up the side.

A double batch nicely fit in my 6 QT Slow Cooker.

Here is the soup prior to me turning it on low and letting it come together for a couple of hours.

Here is the soup prior to me turning it on low and letting it come together for a couple of hours.

I then add the final ingredients to the slow cooker and give it a stir. I used a spoon to lift some up for the photo to show the tomatoes and other ingredients. One of my cans of diced tomatoes was one of Italian herbed ones. With the final ingredients I ended up with a full slow cooker.

I put the lid on and it was on low for about 3 hours or so. I left some pre-shredded mozzarella and a loaf of garlic bread to go with the soup when it was served.

I have to confess I was a bit excited to get home and get the review from my young diners.

Thrilled to learn that it was a hit from the 3 year olds to the 16/17 year olds!

I also had enough left over for some school lunches.

Which is nice when the kids still have to go to school at -40C.

Pizza Soup Recipe

From Canadian Living

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups (500 mL) sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup (250 mL) diced ham or smoked turkey or pepperoni
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) each of salt and pepper
  • 1/2 chopped sweet green pepper, optional
  • 1 can (28 oz/796 ml) diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups (500 mL) chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) tomato paste

Preparation

In large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat; sautee onion, garlic, mushrooms, ham, oregano, salt and pepper until liquid is evaporated, about 6 minutes. Add green pepper (if using), tomatoes, stock and tomato paste; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until flavours are blended, about 10 minutes. (Make-ahead: Let cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate until cold. Transfer to airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days.)

Source : Canadian Living Magazine: February 2005