Soft Dinner Buns

Buns 9

Admit it, you wish your house smelled this good right now!

 

April 1 is tomorrow, and that’s our Auntie Elsie’s birthday, or it would have been if she was still with us.  We miss her every day, and while I was busy thinking of her I felt that need to make some soft white dinner buns, the kind she used to bring to every family dinner as a treat.  This dough is soft and tasty, and the texture is perfect.  Pretty sure she would have been proud of this effort!

Buns 7

Step 1:

  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 6 tsp. honey
  • 6 tsp. butter
  • 2 tsp. salt

Combine the above ingredients in a large bowl and cool.

Step 2:

  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (not too warm, you’ll kill the yeast)
  • 3 tsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. fast rising yeast

Dissolve the water and sugar in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit.

Step 3:

  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 6-7 cups unbleached white flour
Buns 1

Just waiting for this yeast to bloom a little more and I’ll be ready to start combining everything.

  • Mix the eggs into the first (Step 1) mixture once it has cooled to room temperature.
  • Add 1 cup of flour to this mixture and stir well.
  • Add the yeast mixture (Step 2) to the bowl and stir to incorporate.
  • Gradually add the remaining flour, cup by cup, until the dough gets too difficult to stir in the bowl.  At this point, on a floured surface (your counter), empty the dough and knead by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.  You will need to keep the surface floured to prevent it from sticking.
  • Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover with a clean tea towel, and place in a draft-free warm area to rise.
buns 2

This dough is so soft, I can taste it already….

Buns 3

It’s true.  I’m that dork that has a re-usable cover for raising yeast dough.

  • Let the dough rise until doubled (about 40 minutes) and punch it down.  Repeat this process once.
Buns 4

Yes, the yeast and time has done it’s job.

Buns 5

Time to release the dough and form buns.

  • Preheat your oven to 350 F and grease two  9x 13 baking trays (the ones with the small sides).  You can use any shape of pan you want in actual fact.  Cut off pieces of dough that are approximately 1/2 cup in size (doesn’t have to be exact!) and form into buns.  I keep my fingers slightly floured and tuck the dough under as I stretch the dough to make it smooth on top, but you can use whatever technique you like!
  • Place the buns about a 1/2 inch apart on the greased pan, cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Buns 6

  • Bake for 15-20 minutes or until nicely browned.
Buns 8

Use this recipe for whatever you like!  Today I made mini pizza shells for the grandkids to make lunches with.  I call it the organic look when they aren’t all uniform in size and shape….

 

Buns 11

A tray of these is welcome at any dinner.

I thought I had Auntie Elsie’s original recipe, but couldn’t find it.  This recipe is from “Fraiche Nutrition” and if you haven’t been to her website, well – get on over there.  It is packed with delicious and nutritious recipes and tips.

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

I can’t tell you how light and fluffy this popcorn chicken coating is.  It comes down to the potato starch I think.  All the aromatics seep into the chicken with this marinade and every bite is a burst of flavour.  You might think I made a quick trip to Taiwan for this recipe ….. but you’d be wrong.  We tasted this first in Huatulco, Mexico and dreamt of it until I figured out how to make it.

Taiwanese chicken 7

Mercader Restaurant in Santa Cruz Huatulco, is where we first tasted this incredible bite of chicken.  The owner/operators have travelled extensively and bring flavours from all over the world to play with Mexican ingredients.

Chicken
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs

Marinade
1 medium head of garlic
1/2-inch ginger
3 green onions, white and 1-inch of the green part, minced
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1 teaspoon sweet potato starch
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Coating
1 egg
1/2 cup cold water
2-3 cups sweet potato starch

Oil for frying.

Directions
Cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks and place in large bowl. Make the marinade by mincing or forcing the garlic through a press into a small bowl. Add the minced green onions, soy sauce, Mirin, 5-spice, white pepper, sweet potato starch and cayenne pepper, stir to form a paste and then scrape into the bowl with the chicken. Mix to coat all the chicken and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Taiwanese chicken 1

Mix all the marinade ingredients together, and stir together in a bowl large enough to hold the chicken as well.

Taiwanese chicken 2

Stir the chicken pieces into the marinade, and cover.  Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.

 

Once the chicken is done marinating, place the eggs in medium sized bowl with the 1/2 cup of water. Beat together with a fork. Place the sweet potato starch in another medium sized bowl.

Taiwanese chicken 3

I had an egg white in the fridge today. so used just that instead of a whole egg.

Taiwanese chicken 4

Heat the frying oil in a sauté pan or wok until it reaches 350˚F. Using chopsticks or tongs, dip the chicken first in the watery egg mixture then in the starch and fry the chicken pieces without crowding them too much for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Try not to overcrowd the pan, I usually fry about 6-8 pieces at a time in the wok and 8 – 10 pieces in my 10” sauté pan.

Taiwanese chicken 5

Don’t overcrowd the oil or the temperature will drop.

Taiwanese chicken 6

Season with the salt and white pepper as soon as it comes out of the fryer.

Taiwanese chicken 8

Make a dipping sauce to take this over the top.  Combine sweet soy sauce, spicy oil, a bit of sesame oil, sliced garlic and green onions.

Taiwanese chicken 9

Addictive.  

I found this recipe on a great website, “Eat the love”, and it’s perfect.  My only addition is the dipping sauce.  I’m hope that I can also find the sweet potato starch he uses, but so far I’ve only been able to find regular potato starch.

 

 

Kale & Mushroom Risotto

I love this risotto!  It has just a hint of parmesan, rather than being driven by parmesan richness.  It is creamy, and a delicious side dish.  Add some grilled prawns and you’ve got a complete meal.

Risotto 6

This creamy risotto packs a vegetable punch with loads of kale and mushrooms.

  • 6 to 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups mushrooms
  • 1 large shallot
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 2½ tablespoons butter
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
  • ¾ cup white wine or brandy
  • ¾ cup Parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

 

Place broth in a medium sauce pan and heat to a simmer; reduce heat and keep warm.

Clean and chop the mushrooms and kale. Mince the shallot.

Risotto 1

This photo may not show enough kale, but I usually have equal amounts of kale and mushrooms.

In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, pot or Dutch oven, heat 2½ tablespoons butter over medium high heat. Add the shallot, mushrooms, kale, and ½ teaspoon salt, reduce heat to medium, and cook until translucent, stirring often, about 3 minutes.

Risotto 3

Love the bright kale against the earthy mushrooms.

Add 1½ cups Arborio rice and stir to combine, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add ¾ cup white wine. Cook, stirring, until liquid is almost evaporated, a few minutes.

Risotto 2

At this point, you’re ready to start adding the broth. Add ½ cup warmed broth to skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until broth is almost absorbed. Repeat, gradually adding broth ½ cup at a time and stirring, until rice is tender but still al dente and sauce is creamy (you may not need all the broth). The process should take about 20 to 25 minutes.

Risotto 4

Stir in ¾ cup Parmesan cheese. Continue to stir until combined (or turn off the heat and cover the dish for a few minutes). Remove from heat and season to taste with kosher salt and pepper. Serve immediately, garnished with Parmesan cheese.

Risotto 5

This is very flexible – tonight’s version included crimini and Portobello mushrooms, but you could use any variety you like.  To make a vegetarian version use vegetable stock.  Make sure you love the flavor of your stock, so important to the finished product. This will lose its creaminess if you can’t serve it right away, so keep a little of the warmed broth if you need to soften it up a bit.

Beef Rouladen

European heritage means we’ve eaten our fair share of Rouladen.  Growing up we always thought we were Austrian German, but it turns out there is more Romanian heritage in us than we thought.  And, of course throw in an Irish Nana and and English Granddad and you have the Heinz 57 of DNA.

Rouladen 4

I used to always put carrot in with the pickles in the rouladen, but Grant doesn’t like either pickles or cooked carrots ….. sigh.  I love the flavour though, so compromised by only putting pickle in the roll up, and nestling carrots in with the gravy.  Total win win.

Ingredients

Rouladen:

  • 4 boneless round steaks very thin, about 4 inches wider x 7 inches long (often you can actually find a rouladen cut ready made)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Paprika
  • 4 Tbsp whole grain mustard or Dijon, regular yellow mustard
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 1/2 cup onion finely diced
  • 4 baby dill pickles halved or larger dill pickles quartered. Sweet pickle is also an option here.
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. If you weren’t able to find preprepared meat, then prep the rouladen by pounding out the beef until they are 1/4 inch thin and about 5 inches wide by 9 inches long. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a sprinkling of paprika. Spread 1 Tbsp of whole grain mustard over each of the 4 pieces of beef. Place two pieces of bacon over each piece of beef, side by side, trimming any part of the bacon that extend over the ends. Scatter each with diced onion, dividing evenly between the four pieces. With the widest end of the short side facing you, place two pickle halves end to end about 1 1/2 inches from the end. It’s ok if they stick out the side at this point. Take the end closest to you and fold it up and over the pickles. Continue rolling by lifting and rolling until it is completely rolled. Take a skewer and secure the end of the roll to the main part of the roll, so it doesn’t unroll. Trim any excess pickle sticking out the sides so it is even with the sides of the roll. Roll up the remaining beef pieces similarly.
Rouladen 2

They already look good ….. you could use more pickle in these, but as I mentioned, it isn’t Grant’s favourite, so this worked out fine.

Rouladen 1

Assembly line!

 

Gravy:

  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 Tbsp red wine can omit or replace with a couple of teaspoons of red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste or ketchup, in a pinch
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard or regular mustard
  • Pinch paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Stir together the gravy ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.
Rouladen 3

All rolled up and ready for browning before a low slow oven roast.  Be prepared for your house to smell amazing.

Method:

  1. In a Dutch oven or large, heavy bottomed, oven-proof dish with a lid, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef rolls to the pan, skewer/seam side down. Sear for a few minutes until lightly browned, then flip over and sear the other side. Place the rolls on their sides if necessary to sear the entire outside of each of the rolls.
  2. Once rolls are browned, add the prepared gravy mixture to the pan. Stir gently to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring liquid to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover pot and place in the preheated oven.
  3. Cook, covered in the oven until tender, about 1 – 1/2 hours (depending on the size of your rolls), flipping rolls over a couple of times during the cooking period.

To thicken gravy:

  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp cold water
  1. Remove pot from oven and use tongs to remove rolls to a plate. Carefully remove the skewers from the rolls and discard, then cover plate loosely with foil while you thicken the gravy.
  2. Place pot on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Combine cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl and add to liquid in pot. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring, until thickened. If necessary, add a bit more cornstarch/water to gravy if not thick enough. Taste gravy and add additional salt, pepper and paprika, to taste.
  3. To serve, cut rolls in half diagonally in the middle. Place halves on side mashed potatoes and spoon gravy over-top. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.

Rouladen used to be a meal on a regular rotation in our house, but somehow I got away from it.  This long, unrelenting winter had me craving it all over again, but I couldn’t find our family recipe …eek.  Thank goodness I found this one from “Seasons and Suppers” which was the closest I could find to the way I remembered doing it.  So glad I did, it was delicious.  We served it with mashed potatoes, but it works equally well with broad egg noodles ….anything to soak up that luscious gravy.

Citrus Loaf

I love the bright citrus flavour of this loaf.  Easy to make, and easier to eat!

Citrus loaf 5

This loaf takes little more than 10 minutes to put together, and while it is baking the citrus aroma is fantastic.

  • 1 medium lemon
  • 1 medium orange
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter (I use salted for baking)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grate 1 tbsp peel from lemon and squeeze 1 tbsp juice, set aside.

Grate 1 tbsp orange peel and squeeze 5 tbsp juice, set aside.

Citrus loaf 1

Citrus loaf 2

Stir the wet ingredients into the larger bowl, and mix only until just holding together.  If you mix it too much the dough won’t be quite as tender.

In large bowl cut softened butter into flour, baking powder, salt and 1 cup sugar.  Stir in peel.  In small bowl beat eggs, milk and4 tbsp orange juice lightly.  Stir into flour mixture just until flour is moist.  Do not over mix!

Spoon into greased and lightly floured loaf pan, baking for 1 hour.  Test, and when you tester comes out clean, remove from oven and allow to rest 10 minutes in loaf pan before removing.

citrus-loaf-3.jpg

If you line the loaf pan with parchment paper it makes removal quick and easy.

 

In saucepan, heat lemon juice, 1 tbsp orange juice and 2 tbsp sugar until boiling.  Cool, stirring, for about 3 minutes.  Brush over loaf once it has cooled off a bit, but not cold.

Citrus loaf 4

Boil the juices and sugar long enough for the syrup to thicken slightly, then remove from heat.

Citrus loaf 6

Every bite is light, juicy, citrusy and that glaze over the top is absolutely divine.

 

Moist and tender meatballs

I’ve made meatballs for so many years I can’t even remember when I started.  Then, over the last few years we’ve tasted some pretty amazing meatballs, most notably and surprisingly – in Mexico!  I decided I better start rethinking my meatball game.  After research and the usual taste testing, these won out.  They are so moist and tender you won’t believe the difference.  I like to make a double batch and freeze a bunch for another day.

Spaghetti & meatballs

One perfectly moist meatball, set on a bed of saucy tangled pasta – heaven.

 

 

  • 2 pounds ground meat (equal parts ground beef & ground pork)
  • 1 cup panko-style breadcrumbs
  • 2/3 cup milk, any kind
  • 4 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, plus more to serve
  • 4 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt
  • Red pepper flakes and/or freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic cloves

Heat your oven to 425 degrees F.

Line a large baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup, and coat it lightly with a nonstick spray.

Meatballs 2

Add the milk, eggs and seasonings to the panko first in order to have it all evenly distributed without overmixing your meatballs.

Meatballs 1

Next -get your herbs in there.

Meatballs 3

This is where the large fork comes in handy.  If you over mix the meatballs they will get tough, so this allows you to gently combine everything.

 

Place meat, crumbs, milk, parsley, cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, onion powder, eggs, and your minced garlic in a large bowl, and mash everything together with a fork (this keeps your meatballs from getting overworked) until evenly mixed. Using wet hands if needed, form mixture into 2-inch meatballs (I used a 3 tablespoon scoop) and arrange on prepared tray. Roast for 12 minutes, until cooked through (you can cut one in half).

Meatballs 4

Ready to pop in the oven.  These were on the larger size so they took about 18 minutes to cook through.  Don’t overcook them!  Break one open at that point and check.

Meatballs 5

If serving with spaghetti – submerge meatballs into tomato sauce and allow to simmer until pasta is ready.

Always cook the pasta for the last few minutes in the tomato sauce to allow the sauce to coat all pasta.

Serve with plenty of parmesan to grate over top.

Thanks to Deb at Smitten Kitchen for these meatballs!

 

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Chimichurri Sauce

Pork tenderloin, lightly crispy on the outside, perfectly pink inside, it is one of the most versatile pieces of meat you can cook with.

Pork & chimichurri 2

Served with yams, sliced thickly and roasted – they were the perfect accompaniment to this slightly spicy, very herbaceous chimichurri sauce.

If you haven’t had chimichurri, you must give it a try!  So good, it brings any meat to life, and works equally well on on roasted vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • About 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • About 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Pork Tenderloin:

  • 2 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each), trimmed of excess fat, patted dry
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Lime juice, for drizzling
  • Parsley sprigs, for garnish
  • Pork & chimichurri

    I like to butterfly the pork tenderloin, and pound the thicker areas enough so that it is equally thick – that really helps it cook evenly.

  1. Combine the garlic, jalapeno and vinegar in a bowl. Stir in the parsley, oregano, and lime juice. Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix well and set aside at room temperature to allow the flavors to marry.
  2. Reserve 1/2 cup of the chimichurri to serve and marinate the pork in the rest. Put the pork and marinade in a sealable plastic bag and set aside in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat an outdoor charcoal grill or oven broiler to high.
  4. Remove the pork from the marinade, wiping off any excess. Season both sides with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and place on the grill. Grill the pork on the hottest part of the barbecue for 4 minutes per side, until well charred. Allow the tenderloin to rest for about 5 minutes prior to slicing. Spoon some chimichurri over the meat, drizzle with lime juice, garnish with parsley, and serve with the remaining sauce at the table.
Pork & chimichurri 1

Make sure it rests!  So important to allow the meat to sit long enough to for the juices to settle in and your pork will always by tender and juicy.