Roasted Potato Fennel Soup

During the cold of winter these vegetables are always available, and make the most comforting winter dinner.  When summer vegetables arrive however, with fresh new potatoes, leeks and fennel from your own garden or farmers market, this soup is the perfect meal on a cool, rainy spring – early summer night.

Roasted potato Fennel Soup 10

I love rich, creamy soups, but what I really love …. is the toppings.  Every pureed soup needs something to create texture and bacon with fresh herbs does the job.

  • 4 pounds red potatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp  freshly ground pepper
  • 3 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup sliced leek
  • 3 cups sliced fennel bulb
  • 3 quarts chicken broth (or vegetable broth for a vegetarian option)
  • 1 cup cream (omit if you want it to be vegan)

GARNISH

  • fresh chopped chives, parsley, basil and fennel fronds
  • crispy bacon bits

Preheat oven to 400

In large bowl toss the potatoes with olive, garlic, salt and pepper.

Roasted Potato Fennel Soup 1

New potatoes, tossed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.  Yum whatever you do wth them!

Spread on baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, until cooked through.  (use 2 sheets if necessary, you don’t want them crowded)

Saute onions, fennel and leek with 2 tbsp olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat until translucent. (I like to cook my bacon in the pot first in order to use the fat …. but for vegan or vegetarian options just omit the bacon and it’s fat).

Roasted Potato Fennel Soup 3

Season every step of the way!

Add chicken or vegetable stock to onion mixture and bring it to a boil. Add roasted potatoes, turn to a gentle simmer and cook until all vegetables are soft.

Roasted Potato Fennel Soup 5

Puree until all vegetables are creamy … this is the point to add fresh minced herbs and the cream, if using.

Roasted Potato Fennel Soup 7

Taste, and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

Roasted Potato Fennel Soup 6

Mince up a handful of fresh herbs …. 

Roasted Potato Fennel Soup 9

Toss the herbs in and stir well with the blended soup.

Roasted Potato Fennel Soup 2

Prep your garnish … today I liked the idea of crunchy bacon (well honestly most soups love crunchy bacon) … as well as chives, basil and fennel fronds.

 

Oven Roasted Chicken Breasts

These chicken breasts will convince you that a quick delicious meal can be on your table in 20-30 minutes.  In the time this takes to roast you can have some rice made and vegetables sautéed for a complete dinner.

Chicken breast 2

These chicken breasts were so moist that the juices just glistened.

JUICY CHICKEN BREASTS – super easy, super quick and delicious!

  • Always season your chicken breast, not just salt and pepper but choose your favorite spices and herbs. Make sure to pat the chicken dry first before seasoning because moisture causes steam which will prevent your chicken from browning.
  • Don’t be afraid to add a little bit of fat like olive oil or butter. Chicken breasts need some fat to keep them juicy and flavorful.
  • If you’ve got the time, brine your chicken for 2 to 4 hours in a solution made with water, salt and other things you may prefer like soy sauce or beer. Basic brine ratio is 1 tbsp salt to 1 cup of water.
  • Baking time can vary depending on the thickness of the breasts, so invest in an instant read thermometer for best results. Cooking time is generally 20 to 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature registers 165 F degrees.
  • It’s important to take it out of the oven right then and allow it to rest for all those juices to evenly distribute throughout the chicken breast.
  • Save the pan drippings and use them to drizzle over the chicken for extra flavor!
Chicken Breast

I used paprika, garlic powder, Italian seasonings as well as salt and pepper.  The secret is to use way more seasoning than you think you will need, and top with a pat of butter.  That butter seeps down into the chicken and also helps to create those delicious pan juices.

I don’t usually love plain chicken breasts without stuffing, or crispy skin but these breasts are so moist and delicious I loved them, and so will you.  I found this recipe on “Jo Cooks” and couldn’t believe how quick and easy it was for this amount of flavour.

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.

Halibut Veracruzana

halibut veracruzana

This is one of those recipes that is more a guideline.  Inspired by the flavours of fish we’ve had served in the style of Veracruz in Mexico, this is so easy to prepare at home, and if you have a good source of fish, give it a try!

You will need:

  • enough fish to feed your family (I’ve used halibut here but any white fish will work)
  • green olives
  • fresh tomatoes
  • black olives
  • capers
  • roasted red peppers
  • fresh red peppers
  • your best olive oil
  • lemon
  • sea salt & pepper

Generously butter a baking dish (extra points for using a pretty one that you can also serve this dish in!)

Lay in your fish, cut in serving size.

Chop the olives, peppers and fresh tomato, and then cover your fish with all the toppings.  Again, be generous with seasoning – liberally sprinkling salt and pepper over it all.  Then – squeeze a whole lemon and drizzle olive oil over the top.

Roast at 375 just until fish flakes nicely.  This will entirely depend on the thickness of your fish, so watch it carefully and check after 10 minutes.

Serve over rice, with a bright, crunchy salad on the side.  Add crusty bread to soak up those juicy drippings and you’ve got a quick easy dinner good enough for company.

Tossed Salad

Braised Lamb Shanks

The fall days just make me think of hearty, wholesome meals and this lamb shank is the best way to celebrate staying indoors and getting cozy.  The added bonus is that your house will smell dreamy while they slowly roast.

Lamb shank 5

  • 4 lamb shanks
  • salt & pepper
  • all purpose flour
  • olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 3 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 cups red wine (make sure you use good wine, something you want to sip while the lamb is roasting)
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 ancho chiles, rehydrated in hot water for 20 minutes
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 14 ounce tin of good canned tomatoes

Garnish:  1 minced garlic clove, 1 small diced chili, and a small handful of parsley, all chopped and mixed.

Season lamb shanks with salt and pepper, then dust with flour.

Preheat oven to 300

Heat oil in braising pan, large enough to hold all 4 shanks in one layer.  Brown shanks all over, taking care not to overcrowd the pan.  You may have to do this in stages.

Remove shanks to keep warm while you reheat the pan, add a bit more oil and saute the onions, carrots & celery until they have softened.

Lamb shank 1

Deglaze the pan with red wine, stirring to get all the bits of goodness off the bottom.  Add beef stock, garlic cloves, ancho chili (stem and seeds removed), rosemary, paprika and tomatoes.  Stir well and nestle the lamb shanks back into the mixture.  Cover tightly and put in the oven.

Lamb shank 2

Relax with that wine …… enjoy the aromas coming out of the kitchen ….

This recipe is so forgiving – if you have more time roast at a lower temperature, if you are short, move the temperature up to 350 or 375 and shorten your cooking time.

Check for doneness and as soon as cooked through remove the lamb shanks from the braising liquid and set aside.

Lamb shank 3

The lamb is cooked, but not yet falling off the bone tender, and that is what you are looking for.

Lamb shank 4

At this point, if you want a clear stock, strain the solids off.  If you don’t mind a more rustic stock use your immersion blender or standard blender (if using a standard blender BE SURE to leave the lid off or some place for steam to escape … trust me on this).

Nestle those lamb shanks back into the liquid and continue to roast until the meat literally falls off the bone.

When ready to serve, sprinkle the garnish over top and prepare to enjoy the feast.

 

 

Butternut Squash Salad

Roasted squash, crunchy pepitas, salty feta, and tart pickled red onions.  This salad has it all, and can be served warm or cold.  Make a big batch it keeps so well.

Butternut Squash Salad

 

1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds)

5 to 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup cooked barley

Barley

1 cup chopped fresh kale, massaged well until it is bright green

Kale, massaged

Look how much brighter the massaged kale is, compared to the kale at the bottom of the photo.  Massaged kale is more tender and easy to digest also.

1/3 cup toasted salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
3 ounces feta cheese
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

preheat oven to 375

Peel squash and cut into bite size pieces.  Toss with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper, and roast until tender, about 30-40 minutes.

To cook barley put 1/2 cup dry barley into saucepan with 2 cups water (or chicken stock for extra flavour).  Boil for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to sit for 1 hour.  Drain well.  You can easily do this a day ahead.

Dice red onion finely, and set aside in small bowl or jar.  Combine the sherry vinegar, water, salt and sugar and stir until well dissolved.  Pour over onions and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes.  You can also do this ahead of time, in fact I often have a jar of these in my fridge as they are amazing on salads, sandwiches and of course tacos!

Pickled red onion

Just love the bright colour pickled red onions get, with a gorgeous pink vinaigrette.  Yum.

The pumpkin seeds I have on hand all the time aren’t salted, so I toasted them in a little bit of olive oil, with a sprinkle of fresh sea salt.  They were so delicious I kept nibbling at them, good thing I ended up with enough for the salad.

When squash is ready, toss in a large bowl with all the other ingredients and about 3 tbsp  olive oil.

Butternut squash salad prep

Get everything ready ahead of time, and once the squash is roasted toss it all together.

Credit for this amazing salad goes to Smitten Kitchen, Deb used faro and I used barley but you can use any grain you like.  The kale was my idea too, had some in the fridge and thought it would add a nice pop of colour and texture, it did!

Roasted Marinated Sweet Red Peppers

It’s true, going through all the steps to grill and prepare these peppers does take a little bit of time.  Pick a sunny day and the sweet smell of them grilling will be enough payback.  Do enough for a dinner side dish also!  In the middle of winter when you open a jar you will immediately be transported back to that summer day.  I love using these in so many different appetizers, slivered in a salad or pasta or just served with a grilled steak.

Red pepper 4

These sweet peppers are an amazing way of capturing the tastes and smells of summer in a jar.

4 pounds firm, fresh and cleaned red bell peppers

Lightly oil peppers and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill until charred in spots and softened.  Put in bowl, cover tightly and allow to sit for 15 minutes until you can easily slip the skins off.   If you don’t have a barbecue you can also do this over an open flame or in your oven with the broiler unit.

Red pepper 1

MARINADE

  • 1 cup bottled lemon juice
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, quartered
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

Bring all marinade ingredients to boil in a saucepan.

Red pepper marinade 2

In most cases I would suggest squeezing fresh lemon juice, but in this instance the consistency and acidic content of bottled lemon juice is what you need.

If you want to use these within a few weeks, just fill the jars with peppers and pour the boiling marinade over.

Red pepper 3

Seal and keep in the fridge.

SEALING AND PRESERVING

Scald jars in boiling water and heat canning lids and sealers in boiling water.  Fill jars with peppers, immediately fill to within 1/2 inch of the top.  Quickly close the jars with lids and sealers and boil in canner for 15 minutes.