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Monday, June 29, 2015

Macaroni & Cheese with Tomatoes

Macaroni and Cheese has to be my all-time favourite meal. I have several recipes for it on this blog, here, here, here and a vegan version here.  Now I bring you another delicious variation on the same theme using canned tomatoes and a little onion. 

Mom and Aunt Amy never put tomatoes in their Macaroni and Cheese so I thought it quite strange when I first saw this as a child.  Dad's cousin, Mrs. Spracklin, made hers with tomatoes and it was at her house that I first saw and tasted this combination.  I can't remember if Mrs. Spracklin put onions in her macaroni but I think they lend themselves nicely to the overall flavour of the dish.

It will never replace my beloved classic Macaroni and Cheese but it makes a nice change now and then.  We really enjoyed it this past weekend.  

Macaroni & Cheese with Tomatoes
3 cups elbow macaroni cooked according to package directions
About ¾ -1 lb of medium or old cheddar cheese, grated
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained or canned whole tomatoes diced and drained
¼ cup finely chopped or minced onion
2 cups milk
1 egg
½ -¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste
Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease or pan spray a 9x13-inch casserole baking dish.

Cook macaroni in salted water according to package directions for al dente.  Drain when cooked. 

Roughly divide macaroni, cheese, tomatoes and onion into thirds.  Layer in casserole dish starting with macaroni, then tomatoes, onions and cheese.  Build up 3 layers ending with the cheese.  

Beat the milk and egg together, adding the salt and pepper.  If the macaroni was well seasoned you may only need the ½ teaspoon of salt.  Taste to make sure.  Macaroni and Cheese will be bland if not seasoned correctly.

Pour the milk and egg mixture over the macaroni and bake for 30-40 minutes in the preheated oven.  Remove from oven and let rest at least 5 minutes before serving.  

Makes 6-8 servings.

Boil the macaroni in salted water according to package directions for al dente macaroni.  Remember the macaroni will continue to cook in the oven.

Besides the macaroni you will need diced canned tomatoes, milk, onions, egg, cheese, salt and pepper.  I like to add evaporated milk in macaroni but you may use fresh milk as well. 

 Make 3 layers of macaroni, tomatoes, onions and cheese.

Season the milk with salt and pepper.  Beat in the egg and pour over the macaroni.  I like to pour on the milk before adding the final layer of cheese.

Ready for the oven.
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

 Let rest at least 5 minutes before serving.

Serve Macaroni & Cheese with Tomatoes with a side of baked beans and a tossed salad.  A dinner roll or a slice of hot garlic bread would be also go well with the meal.

 Macaroni & Cheese with Tomatoes is a tasty change from the classic dish.

Delicious Macaroni & Cheese with Tomatoes!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Breakfast or Dinner Vegetarian Sausage

As a child, one of my favourite meals (they were all my favourite) was sausages, potatoes and green peas.  I loved the spicy flavour of the beef sausage and never seemed to have enough of them on my plate.  I gladly ate any sausages left on my sister's plate. Sometimes mom would scrape the drippings off the pan and dribble a little over the potatoes.  Oh, how tasty that was! 

Even though I loved the taste of the sausages I never served them very often to the family.  I think all the fat threw me off and I thought it wiser to leave the fatty sausages for just very occasional meals.  Of course all that changed when we became vegetarians.  Then I wanted sausages all the time!  But I had given up the dead carcases and had to move on.  But the memory of the taste of the spicy sausage still remained even after nearly 20 years of vegetarianism.   I tried many fake veggie sausages but, I tell you, I don't know who tastes those things before they package them.  They didn't taste remotely like a sausage of my youth. 

And then a couple of years ago I came across a meatless oatmeal sausage that was going around the internet blogs and YouTube.  I was fascinated by the process of turning the oatmeal into a well flavoured and meaty facsimile of the real thing.  Anyway, that's what all the reviews said.  I make vegetarian "meat" patties with oatmeal all the time but they don't have this texture so I decided to try the recipe and just as everyone said, they were very sausage-like except something was missing in the spices.  So I made them several more times, doing a little research on sausage spices and came up with a mixture that was very pleasing to my taste buds. 

I also added ground walnuts to add more protein.  You could use pecans as well or any nut that you have on hand.  The minced onion is also optional but will add a little more texture to the mix.  Don't be put off by the long list of herbs and spices.  That's what gives them such a lovely, spicy, sausagey flavour.

I haven't given any credit for the original recipe as I could not trace it down.  It is said to be an adaption of a World War II ration recipe but I could not find any first source references to back up those claims.  There is a veggie sausage in Wales that's been around for several hundred years, known as the Glamorgan Sausage, a mixture of bread crumbs, cheese and onions which does not resemble this recipe at all so I don't know where this one originated.   

Wherever the method came from I'm glad I found it.  Every time I make these sausages I'm almost as surprised with the flavour and texture as I was the first time I ate them.  Try them and I'm sure you'll be as pleasantly surprised as I was and still am. 

You can make these sausages into little breakfast patties or into larger cylindrical dinner sausages. 

Breakfast or Dinner Sausage
2 cups uncooked oatmeal
½ cup walnuts, ground fine
¼ cup minced onion, optional
1 teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon ground sage
½ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon red pepper
¼  teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 eggs OR 4 egg whites OR 2 egg whites + 1 egg

Oil for frying
2-3 cups vegetable or beef-style vegetarian bouillon

Mix all ingredients, except the vegetable bouillon and oil for frying, and form into patties or long sausage shapes. Do not pack the mixture too tightly but tight enough to hold together.  Brown patties or sausages on all sides in a small amount of oil. 

Add enough vegetable bouillon to the frying pan to cover the patties and bring to a boil. Or alternately, you can use a separate saucepan to simmer the sausages. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove patties/sausages from the liquid, drain, and re-fry before serving.

If you are not going to use the sausage immediately store the simmered sausage in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Re-fry the sausage before using.  

Makes 12-18 sausages depending on the shape and size you make. 

Before you begin mixing everything together, grind the nuts to a medium fine meal.

 Mix all the ingredients except the frying oil and the vegetable bouillon.

Form into dinner sausages or smaller breakfast patties.  Don't squeeze the mixture too tight, but make sure they are well formed. Fry in a little oil until they are browned on all sides.

While the sausages are browning bring the bouillon to a simmer.  Place the fried sausages into the simmering broth.  Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.  Save the broth.  It's delicious and will make a great gravy base.  When the sausages are simmered remove them from the broth and refry to serve immediately.  If you are not ready to use the sausages, refrigerate until ready to use.  They may also be frozen at this stage.

Add a little more oil in the pan and fry the sausages for another few minutes until all sides are refried.  I prepared six sausages for our dinner.  These were fried shortly after they had simmered.  

For a hearty breakfast, serve with your favourite eggs and toast.

Serve for dinner with mashed potatoes and your favourite vegetable.

Toothsome veggie sausages for your next dinner or breakfast.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Watermelon & Cream Canadian Flag

As Canada Day is just over a week away I thought I'd better get a few Canada Day recipes on the go.  This is a great country and on our national holiday we love to celebrate its birthday with parades, barbeques, picnics, fireworks and lots of red desserts.  Last year I made my O Canada Day Cake with a red maple leaf going through the middle and also Forget-Me-Not Cupcakes to commemorate the July1st  Memorial Day in Newfoundland.  I've made lots of desserts for Canada Day over the years but nothing as healthy as this one.☺  Of course I wouldn't deny anyone a piece of cake along with this simple little fruit salad. 

The maple leaf and side bars of this Canada Flag are made of slices of watermelon and the white background is any whipped cream of your choice.  I used lightly sweetened whipped coconut cream but a regular sweetened whipped cream or whipped topping will work. Even the filling of an unbaked cheesecake would be delicious.   

The kiddies might like to help you make these as it was quite fun to put these together.  The scraps of watermelon didn't last long either but they can be saved to use in a fruit salad or a smoothie.  

You will need a maple leaf cookie cutter to make the flag and the size of the cookie cutter will determine the size of the finished flag.  I used about a ½-inch slice of watermelon for my flag but you can vary that thickness according to the size of the flag(s) you want to make.

I've given the directions for a single serving but if you have a large rectangular serving platter a large "flag" could be created to serve everyone at your celebration.

Watermelon & Cream Canadian Flag
For each flag you will need: 

1 ½-inch slice of seedless watermelon 
2 or 3 tablespoons whipped cream or whipped topping, etc (see above)

Lay the watermelon slice on a cutting board.  Using a maple leaf cookie cutter cut one maple leaf from the watermelon.  

Using a knife cut two side bars, each a little longer than the maple leaf.  

Lay the side bars on a serving plate and spread the whipped cream between.  If you have uneven edges use a damp paper towel to wipe the top and bottom edge of your "flag" level. 

Carefully centre the watermelon maple leaf between the side bars.  And there you have it--a Watermelon and Cream Canadian Flag!

I cut a small slice from the watermelon peel to steady the melon while I was cutting a neat slice.

Cut a ½-inch slice from the watermelon.  You may, of course, make your slice as thick as you like, according to the size of the flag you want to make.

Lay the watermelon slice on a flat cutting surface and cut out a maple leaf using a cookie cutter.  Then cut two side bars a little longer than the maple leaf.

When you have the watermelon pieces cut you may need to blot them between paper towels.

Lay the side bars on each side of the serving plate.  Spread 2 or 3 tablespoons whipped cream between the bars.

If your top and bottom edges are uneven use a damp paper towel to wipe and level the edges.

 Gently centre and lay the maple leaf on top of the cream.

Happy Canada Day!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Bread Pudding

If  I added up all the days, in my childhood, that I burned tongue from eating hot puddings and pies it would probably total a year of my life.  Bread Pudding ranked right up there as one of the top offenders to my poor tongue.  My Mother would take the hot pudding from the oven just before dinner was over and serve up steaming bowlfuls to finish off the meal.  There was always cold milk to pour over the pudding to help cool it down but I guess I ate it before the milk did its work.  I would inevitably return to school with a sore and burned tongue.  It's a wonder I still like Bread Pudding, but I do.  I'll eat it any time of the day with great pleasure.

Bread Pudding is not a dessert I make often as I'm the only one who really likes it.  The others will eat it if I plate it up and give it to them but they prefer cookies or cake.  Maybe their tastes will change as they get older. ☺

I had a few slices of homemade white bread left over from making garlic bread on the weekend and decided to make a Bread Pudding with the stale bread as I had a hangering for the dessert.  I don't like it made really sweet so I go light on the sugar.  I usually add only ¼ cup of sugar and find it sufficiently sweet with the raisins.  But if you like a nice sweet pudding use the full amount or even a little more to your taste.  

Bread Pudding
3-4 cups stale bread cubes, about 4 slices homemade-style white bread
2 tablespoons soft butter, optional
2-3 tablespoons raisins or any dried fruit cut in small pieces, optional
3 eggs
1 large can evaporated milk (1½ cups)
⅓ cup white sugar, or to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla
Large pinch nutmeg and cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place a larger baking pan in oven and half fill with hot tap water.  

Slice bread into cubes and place in greased 1½-2 litre (1½-2 quart) casserole dish.  If you wish you may butter the bread slices before cutting into cubes.  I don't usually do this but it will make for a richer pudding. Sprinkle the bread cubes with the raisins.  You may put more raisins in if you wish.  

Beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla and spices together.  Add the evaporated milk and beat until well combined.  Pour the custard mixture over the bread and raisins.  Press the bread into the liquid mixture until the bread is soaked.  Let stand about 10 minutes to make sure the liquid has been thoroughly absorbed by the bread.  You may sprinkle a little more nutmeg or cinnamon over the top before baking. 

Place bread pudding in the larger baking dish that you previously filled with water.  This is a water bath and will prevent the custard from curdling while baking. 

Bake 50-60 minutes or until the middle is baked.  You can test the middle with a cake tester or a tooth pick.  It should come out clean.  Or if you press on the middle of the pudding no raw custard will seep out. 

Serve warm or cold, plain or with pouring cream/milk, whipped cream or ice cream or with a custard or brown sugar sauce.

Makes about 6 servings.

Use a good sturdy white bread like a homemade or French bread.  You may butter the slices before cutting into cubes but that is optional.  Place the cubed bread in the prepared casserole dish and then add the raisins.   Some people like lots of raisins but I like just a few--it's up to you.  (Do you see my new bamboo cutting board.  It was a gift from my friend Lucie and her church.  Thank you so much!)

Beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla and spices together.  Add the evaporated milk and beat until frothy.  Pour the custard mixture over the cubed bread and raisins.

Push the bread into the custard mixture.  Let sit at least 10 minutes for the bread to fully absorb the liquid.  If the bread is really stale let it sit longer.  This is the secret to good Bread Pudding. 

Place the pudding in a pan of hot water.  This ensures the custard will bake without curdling. 

The pudding will take 50-60 minutes to bake to a lovely golden brown.  Make sure to test there is no uncooked custard in the middle before removing from the oven.

Serve the pudding warm or cold.  If you serve it hot you will be responsible for burned tongues.

Bread Pudding served with brown sugar sauce.  The pudding is also delicious with pouring cream/milk (my favourite way) or whipped cream, ice cream or a custard sauce

A spoonful of the soft, sweet bread pudding.

Bread Pudding--Old-fashioned goodness!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I've mentioned several times that my father made the best chocolate chip cookies in the whole entire world.  I've never been able to replicate his perfect cookies that, as a child, I so lovingly dunked into glassful after glassful of cold milk.  His recipe, I'm afraid, has been lost forever and we only have memories of what was and what could have been. . . sigh . . .

But one mustn't be without chocolate chip cookies because one recipe is lost!  There are thousands (yea, even millions) of recipes out there floating about in cyberspace, collecting dust in cookbooks and recipe boxes or just dangling about in the cerebellum of someone's brain.  And so, the classic chocolate chip cookie with all its variations will always be around for us to enjoy. 

It was years ago I started adding oatmeal to chocolate chip cookie dough in an attempt to add a little more "good" nutrition to the family's dessert repertoire.  I have always liked oatmeal raisin cookies and I thought the incorporation of oatmeal to the chocolate chip batter a tasty addition.  

I guess I've made thousands of these cookies over the years.  When the boys were young and living at home I always made a double batch because not only would we enjoy the cookies but so would their friends who often came to play after school or during the summer. They were always a popular after-school snack for ravenous boys who would be engaged in some serious work and play before supper was served.  Sometimes I'd have to hide a dozen if I thought we'd need them for school lunches or a picnic. 

Here is my well tested recipe for Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies.  They aren't Dad's cookies but they're very good cookies.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
2 eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla
1½ cups oatmeal
1½ cups white flour (an extra ¼ cup of flour may be added for a drier, less chewy cookie)
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper if desired.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy.  Mix in the oatmeal until well blended.  Mix or sift flour, baking soda and salt together and blend into the creamed mixture until just combined.  Add the chocolate chips and mix on low speed until they are mixed through the dough.  Drop by spoonfuls on ungreased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Leave about 2 inches between each cookie.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. 

Makes about 3-4 dozen cookies depending on size.

You can make these cookies using the smaller quick or 3-minute oats or the larger flake old-fashioned oatmeal.  I use either type of oatmeal and they both work well.  In a pinch instant oats can be used but DO NOT USE STEEL CUT OR SCOTCH OATS. 

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  
Add the eggs and vanilla and beat again.  

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt together.  Just a reminder not to overdose on baking soda.  Too much baking soda will leave a soapy aftertaste in your mouth.  For every cup of flour, use half a teaspoon of baking soda. 

Mix the oats into the creamed mixture and then add the flour.  Do not overbeat the batter.  Mix until just combined.

Add the chocolate chips and mix on low speed until they are combined through the dough.  You can add a few more chocolate chips if you like them loaded with chocolate.  Personally, I like less chocolate than more.  (I know, I'm in the minority.)

 The dough is now mixed and ready to bake.

Drop by spoonfuls on ungreased or parchment lined cookie sheet.   I like the parchment paper because it makes for easy clean-up.

I have a small oven so my cookie sheets are smaller than the standard size.  I was able to make 12 good sized cookies on each sheet. 

I like my cookies well baked at 12 minutes but others in the family like a chewier centre so I compromise and bake for 11 minutes. 

The recipe will make 3-4 dozen cookies, depending on the size you make them.

 Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies ready for the cookie jar.

 Where's the milk?

Crisp and chewy.
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies--an old stand-by at the Gill's.