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Off the Books: Veg Packed Chili (Meat Optional)

Since Cindy and I made this month about picking vegan/veggie recipes and making some healthier (ie eat more veggies) choices, I had to sneak off the books and share my chili recipe as I’m pretty sure you, our bloggy friends, will love it.  Especially because you can make this vegan, vegetarian, or with meat.  It can be soy free, grain/gluten free (there may be gluten in the chili seasoning packet, but if you make your own, you are good to go). It’s so darn flexible and delicious, no matter how you make it.

I packed this batch FULL of veggies and given my recent anemia diagnosis, I figured it would be best to add some ground beef to this chili to increase the dosage of iron. But trust me, it is NOT necessary to add the beef.  This recipe is plenty tasty without any meat whatsoever.

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This doesn’t even represent the rest of the veggies I added

 

This recipe could be doubled if you have another slow cooker or you felt like doing this on a stove top.  It is easily adaptable depending on how much spice you like or what vegetables you want in your chili…there are NO rules. And yes, this is me embracing the no rules thing…because well, I know that pretty much no matter what I do, I can do no wrong with this recipe.  Once, as part of a work mandated training session, I had to be part of a team building chili cook off…nobody on my team knew how to make chili but me.  I used basics from my recipe and adapted when needed (no brown sugar, use pineapple juice…because yes, they had pineapple, if you can believe it).  Needless to say we won.

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With this batch, I mis-read my recipe and added a tablespoon of cayenne pepper..it was spicy, but still ridiculously delicious…and I got the benefit of very clear sinuses. lol. I also  included some mushrooms because I had some on hand and some frozen spinach at the  last minute to give it some extra colour and to increase the iron. Outside of those few things, there was nothing out of the ordinary with this batch.  Served with a piece of avocado toast and a sprinkle of melted cheese on top of the chili and you have my perfect winter comfort food.

Needless to say, I give this recipe I crazy high rating as I make it multiple times every winter. The lack of crazy ingredients and the flexibility of it is what truly makes it sooo good. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

Recipe rating: 5 knives out of 5

Om, nom, nom,

Lisa

*****

Lisa’s Veggie Packed (Meat Optional) Chili

Makes a lot…fills my 4.7L slow cooker nearly to the brim. lol.

Ingredients

1 medium white onion, diced

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 carrots thinly sliced into medallions

2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced

3 bell peppers, diced

Other vegetables depending on your preferences and what is available (I have included peas, frozen spinach, mushrooms, sweated zucchini, eggplant, diced sweet potato in the past, but definitely feel free to try different vegetables)

1 can of corn, drained

1 can each of kidney beans, black beans and white kidney beans, rinsed and drained*

1 packet of Chili seasoning

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoon chili powder

Pinch of cinnamon

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)

sprinkling of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, all to taste

1 big can of diced tomatoes–just plain, no extra seasonings

1 can of tomato soup

Optional: 1 pkg (500g or nearly 1 lb) of Ground Round/cooked ground meat (turkey, chicken, bison, beef, pork all work).**

Turn on your slow cooker to high. Prepare all the veggies.  Start with the onions, carrots, garlic and celery.  Throwing them in the pot as you go as these veggies take the longest to cook.*** Throw the rest of your prepared ingredients into the slow cooker and give it a stir. Cook it on high for about four hours (or for about six hours on low), stirring occasionally.

Tips:

*you can also include lentils, chick peas, adzuki beans etc but the three listed above are my favourites

**If you are using meat, cook it in a bit of olive oil on high heat to get that nice sear/flavour) before hand and then throwing it into the slow cooker.

***If you plan on using sturdier veggies like sweet potato, be sure to add them early along with the onions, carrots and celery to maximize the amount of cooking time.

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Kneading + Knives Does Christmas: Fried Pickerel

Since I was little, my family has always made a trip out to Gimli, MB in the days leading up to Christmas Eve to acquire a few pounds of fresh caught Lake Winnipeg pickerel.

Anyway, this is it. The pièce de résistance of our traditional Polish Christmas Eve dinner – fried pickerel. Fresh, hot and crispy!

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Instructions:

  1. Add a couple of tablespoons of canola oil to an electric skillet (preferably) and preheat on medium heat.
  2. Rinse pickerel fillets in cold water and pat dry with paper towel.
  3. Whisk a couple of eggs in a bowl.
  4. Mix some breadcrumbs (Pro tip: Make your own out of your favourite croutons!) and Montreal steak spice on a plate.
  5. Mince fresh garlic and spread a bit on each side of the pickerel fillet.
  6. Dip the fillet in egg and then breadcrumb mixture.
  7. Fry until cooked, about 3-4 minutes per side.
  8. Keep in a warm oven (200 degrees) until all fillets are fried and you’re ready to serve!

Smacznego!
Cindy

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Kneading + Knives Does Christmas: Uszki (Dumplings with Mushroom Filling)

For me, the Christmas season is about customary Polish traditions, namely around food. Christmas Eve – called wigilia – is the “big” celebration, and consists of a meatless dinner.

After all of the guests share opłatek (Christmas wafer) and wish each other the best for the coming new year, we sit down to barszc (borscht) with uszki.

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Uszki are dumplings (sometimes we call them “Pope Hats”) that we traditionally fill with mushrooms. Now I’ll admit, I used to HATE these things. But with my newfound mushroom love, I’m looking forward to munching them this Saturday!

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To put a spin on the traditional recipe, this year we’ve added caramelized onion and fresh dill to the mushroom mixture.

Dough

Use the same dough as my mom’s delicious perogies! Roll out to about 2-3 cm thin on floured surface. Use pizza cutter to cut into squares. Add spoonful of mushroom filling in the centre. Pinch to form a triangle. Dab one of the points with water. Overlap the other point over and pinch together to form a Pope Hat 🙂

Drop dumplings into salted boiling water. They are ready when they float to the top.

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Mushroom Filling with Caramelized Onions & Dill

Again, while this is not a technical recipe, here’s a guideline for the filling:

Diced mushrooms
Butter
1 yellow onion, diced
Chopped fresh dill, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Caramelize onions in butter, low and slow in a separate pan. Sautée diced mushrooms in butter until soft. Add salt and pepper. Mix in caramelized onions. Remove from heat and add chopped fresh dill.

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Kneading + Knives Does Christmas: Krystyna’s Pierogi

I had a wonderfully scheduled day off last Friday with my mom, Krystyna. We were going to head out to St. Andrew’s, MB for a fresh Christmas tree and make pierogi. We were even going to make uszka (dumplings filled with mushrooms) for barszcz (borscht) if time allowed.

Alas, the stomach flu struck me down! My mom went ahead as planned and made the perogies, and was kind enough to take photos for me.

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Everyone who grew up in a Polish (or Ukrainian, etc.) family thinks their mother’s or their grandmother’s pierogi take the cake. And I’m no different: my mom’s pierogi are the best. Just the right amount of cheese and onion filling, and a flawlessly soft, perfect dough. Every single time. THE BEST.

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Pierogi have always been part of our family’s traditional Christmas Eve meal.While we’ve switched up the type of filling on other days (cottage cheese, blueberries, mushrooms), our go to for the 24th is the ever classic potato and cheese.

Since we make and freeze the pierogi (laid flat!) ahead of time, all we do to prepare them for Christmas Eve dinner is thaw, carefully toss in melted butter and sautéed onion, and keep in a warmed oven until the rest of dinner is ready. (Note: Tossing in melted butter is what prevents them from sticking together.)

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Now let’s get to that perfect dough recipe, shall we? (And I do mean perfect – this recipe has been around since the late 70’s!)

Krystyna’s Dough

6 cups unbleached flour (plus more in case dough get sticky when working it)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup Canola oil
2 cups hot tap water

Mix dry ingredients together and then add egg and oil. Add water slowly, while mixing with your hands. Yes, HANDS! Get down, folks. Add more flour if necessary; make sure dough is not sticky. Keep kneading until soft. Roll out to about 2-3 cm thin on floured surface. To cut out, use a circular cookie cutter or glass.

Krystyna’s Traditional Potato & Cheese Filling

I inherited my off the cuff style of cooking from my mom. While I can’t type out an exact measurement for the potatoes, here is a general guideline for her tasty filling:

A large pot full of mashing potatoes*, peeled and boiled
1 cup (maybe a bit more) of shredded cheddar cheese
1 yellow onion, diced and sautéed until very soft
Salt and pepper, to taste

Add cheddar and onion to boiled, drained potatoes. Mash. Add a bit of butter if you wish. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mash until smooth.

*Try to find mashing potatoes, if you can. (It will state this on the bag.) If you’re not able to, then grab Yukon gold potatoes. Veer away from red skinned potatoes, as they are not moist enough.

Smacznego!
Cindy

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Cooking off the Books: Mulligatawny Soup (or Stew)

Long, long time ago…there was a restaurant in Winnipeg called Soup Pierre.  They made all sorts of lovely soups…and one of them was Mulligatawny.  They made it about once a month, always on a Friday.  Soup Pierre closed down in Winnipeg about a decade ago and well, that was the last time I had eaten Mulligatawny. *sob*

I searched for recipes..and really couldn’t find anything that seemed to match the lovely things inside Soup Pierre’s recipe…until I saw this post on Spoon Fork Bacon.  I almost cried.  It had all the yummy things I remembered from Soup Pierre’s.

And let me tell you, it did NOT disappoint.  This soup is AMAZING and it’s creamy and like a big bowl of stick to your ribs, warm comfort.  It’s essentially a soupy-stew hug.  And yes, I do realize what a weird mental picture that is providing you. But on a day like today, when there are blizzard conditions happening out my window, a soupy-stew hug is totes necessary.

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mis en place

I also ran this soup by my favourite taste tester – my dad.  To say he liked it was an understatement.  He ate five small bowls in 24 hours…and then he came back to try and take the little bit I rationed to take with me to work on Monday.

 

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YUUUUUUUUUUUUM!

 

I would recommend this recipe, full stop…and in fact, I think if you are a curry fan (or your family happens to like curries), you may wish to make a double recipe.  I think I am going to do that this weekend because holy crap…soooooo good.

Recipe rating: 5 knives out of 5

Om, nom, nom,

Lisa

*****

Mulligatawny
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1 red jalapeno, seeded and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 small apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 roma tomato, seeded and diced
2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon minced thyme
1/2 cup red or yellow lentils (uncooked)
3 cups chicken stock
2/3cup coconut milk
salt to and extra black pepper to taste
toppings and garnish:
cooked jasmine rice
roasted and shredded chicken breast (I roasted boneless, skinless chicken thighs for mine)
golden raisins
cilantro, roughly chopped

Directions:
1. Place a large pot over medium-high heat and melt butter. Add onion, celery, carrot, and jalapeno and sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, apples, and tomato and continue to sauté for an additional 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add all the spices, thyme and lentils to the pot and sauté for 3 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, medium-low and simmer mixture for about 30 to 40 minutes or until lentils have cooked through.

3. Pour mixture into a blender or using and immersion blender, puree until smooth. (NOTE: I didn’t do this…I am not a fan of super smooth soups – also, because of this, I didn’t add in the rice toppings)

4. Pour mixture back into the pot and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and adjust seasonings.

5. To serve: Place about 1/2 cup of rice at the bottom of each bowl and top with a ladle of soup. Top soup with shredded chicken, a sprinkle of raisins and finally the cilantro. Season with freshly cracked black pepper. Serve.

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Cooking Off the Books: King Arthur Flour’s Cakey Brownies

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You know I think you are pretty swell if I bake for you.  It’s a thing I inherited from my grandmother.  You bake to show you care. A friend recently mentioned that they loved anything chocolate…and specifically brownies…cakey brownies…

WTF…cakey brownies?!

I don’t make cakey brownies…isn’t that just, well, eating a chocolate cake?  Why oh why do you want cakey brownies when I have ZERO experience with or recipes for cakey brownies..FFS!

Since I am a competitive people pleaser that is always up for a baking challenge, I immediately went to work. Jamie Oliver was lacking a brownie recipe so I was forced to cook off the books.

I started researching and came across a recipe from King Arthur Flour.  It had rather favourable comments/ratings and King Arthur Flour recipes have a good reputation, so I figured this one was gonna be a winner.

I immediately got to work, melting, mixing, etc.  The recipe was easy enough to follow.  The Dutch-process cocoa powder may throw people off.  For Canadians, you can find it at your local Bulk Barn store – called Ruddy Red Cocoa (and p.s. I love using Dutch-process cocoa powder for things, but beware, it cannot be used interchangeably in recipes because CHEMISTRY – read here for more from the queen of baking,  Joy the Baker).

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The batter was deceivingly delish

The recipe took forever to cook…about 15 or so minutes longer than the recipe stated it would take.  And, when done, it simply looked like a sheet cake, vs brownies.  There was none of that crisp looking crackled top.  It tasted and felt like a bland chocolate cake.  So bland that I whipped up some last minute buttercream to top these “brownies” with so I could take them to work and have them be at least somewhat enjoyable to eat…and well, to me, this seemed sacrilegious because, in my opinion a good brownie does NOT need frosting. Note I said NEED.  If you like frosting on your brownies fill your boots, but I believe it should be a nice enhancement…not a necessity for it to taste good.

 

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Yes, I used the Disney sprinkles!

Overall, I would not recommend this recipe, so the search for a good cakey brownie, which may be abandoned for a good brownie, period with the hope that it is so good that the cakey vs fudgy aspect is completely forgotten.

Will keep you all, our fearless readers, in the loop on my challenge to find a perfect brownie.

Recipe Rating: 2 knives out of 5

Om, nom, nom,

Lisa

*****

King Arthur Flour’s Cakey Brownies

Yield: 2 dozen squares

  • 1 cup (227g) unsalted butter*, melted
  • 2 1/4 cups (447g) sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup (106g)  Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt*
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder/instant coffee, optional; for enhanced chocolate flavor
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups (177g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (113g) chopped walnuts or pecans, optional
  • 1 cup (170g) chocolate chips, optional
  • *If you use salted butter, reduce the salt in the recipe to 1/2 teaspoon

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan.  I lined mine with foil to make it easier to remove.  Shiny side down, then greased the foil.
  2. Combine the melted butter and sugar, stirring until smooth.
  3.  Stir in the cocoa, salt, baking powder, vanilla, and espresso powder.
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Scrape the bowl, then add the water, stirring until smooth.
  5. Add the flour, nuts, and chips, stirring until thoroughly combined.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
  7. Bake the brownies for 28 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs attached. The brownies should feel set both on the edges and in the center.
  8. Remove the brownies from the oven, and cool them on a rack before cutting and serving. Glaze or frost, if desired.