squash & sweet potato soup

We love soup over here in this house.  In all honesty, we could eat it and enjoy any night of the week…and any season for that matter.  Homemade soups are probably one of the easiest and yummiest meals to make.  What it boils down to (pun intended) is basically choosing your veggies of choice…washing, peeling and chopping them up, and then throwing them in a pot.  Next, add in some liquid goodness, a couple herbs/spices…puree and voila.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezey.  This simplification isn’t far off.  Super quick to make, yet filled with comfort.  With a few simple ingredients, you can create a warm and soothing dish that your family will love any day of the year.

squash & sweet potato soup
Appetizer, Side
4 +
 
Ingredients
  • 1 butternut squash – skin removed and cubed
  • 2-3 large sweet potatoes/yams – cubed
  • 2 small- medium onions - finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic – minced
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 4 cups or 1 tetra container of vegetable stock (homemade or store-bought)
  • coconut oil
  • a pinch or two of ground nutmeg and cinnamon
  • ground pepper and sea salt
  • a few dashes of hot sauce (optional)
  • fresh chives - chopped for garnish
  • bacon – chopped for garnish
Instructions
  1. begin by taking your cubed butternut squash and sweet potato and roast in the oven at 350 degrees until slightly browned (toss in coconut/olive oil and fresh rosemary, in a large bowl and then spread out cubes on a baking sheet)
  2. in the meantime, sauté the onion and garlic in coconut oil on low-medium heat on the stove-top, in a LE CREUSET/dutch oven, until softened and translucent
  3. when done roasting, take your butternut squash and sweet potato and add them into the dutch oven/pot
  4. next, pour in your vegetable broth and bring to a boil
  5. reduce heat and season with a few teaspoons of ground nutmeg and/or cinnamon (sorry, I didn’t measure the amounts here, but I wasn’t shy)
  6. then, take an immersion blender and puree the soup until smooth
  7. at the same time, add in the coconut milk slowly, and continue blending until desired consistency is reached (if too thick...add in some broth or water)
  8. allow time to simmer on low/medium heat for flavours to meld together - stirring occasionally
  9. serve it up in a bowl and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and ground pepper
  10. finish with a few dashes of hot sauce if you want a little bite!
  11. finally, garnish with some freshly chopped chives and crumbled bacon (sweet vs. salty flavouring = wickedness)
  12. enjoy!
Notes
• I am using onion, garlic, chopped up squash and sweet potatoes…but you can basically choose any veggies you like…add in some broth and coconut milk (if you want it creamy) and grab a handy immersion blender to mix it up and you are laughing. You can also play around with different spices and fresh herbs if you like as well. If you aren't into 'creamy' type soups - skip the coconut milk step and ditch the pureeing business. • Also, you can modify the consistency of your soup by adding in a little bit more broth or water, if you find it's too thick. Have fun with this one…choose some veggies that are in-season and you are off to the races. Any type of squash is always a good bet as well!!! Oh ya…when re-heating the leftovers (this makes a ton), I also added in some more liquid to even things out.

Time-saver: • If you want to save time, you can do without the roasting of the veggies...and pretty much chop them up and cook them in the dutch oven on the stove-top as you go. The choice is yours, although I find roasting them add more flavour to the dish. YUM!

sweet potato aloo gobi

Indian food.  Love it.  We are very fortunate to live in a city where there are several really amazing and authentic Indian restaurants that serve incredible food.  But, what about making it at home I thought one day?!  From there, I decided to do a little research and ultimately came up with this aloo gobi recipe of my own.  We subbed the ‘usual’ white potatoes with sweet potatoes…well because I am just a bigger fan of these tubers.  However, you could also take this exact recipe and use white potatoes if you wish…it’s totally up to you!  Guaranteed to fill your kitchen with a blended and equally fantastic aroma of Indian spices.  Give it a go…and see (smell) for yourself.

sweet potato aloo gobi
Side
4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 head cauliflower - chopped into florets
  • 2 large sweet potatoes - peeled and cubed
  • .5-1 cup water - depends on how dry or liquid-ey you want it!)
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 large onion - finely chopped
  • 2-3 small tomatoes - finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground red chili powder
  • .5 tsp paprika
  • pinch or two of sea salt
  • fresh ginger - finely grated (1 cm or so)
  • a pinch or two of garam masala
  • handful fresh cilantro - chopped (for garnish)
  • .5 lemon - freshly squeezed juice and some for garnish as well
Instructions
  1. start by heating the oil in a dutch oven or deep pan (heavy), on medium heat
  2. pour in your cumin seeds, stir and cook lightly (you do not want them to burn)
  3. add in your onion, garlic, tomato and lemon juice
  4. cook mixture on low-medium heat, until softened
  5. in a small bowl, pour in your water
  6. next, add in all your dry spices and mix well (adding to water makes the concoction smoother)
  7. then, add liquid spice mixture to the pan
  8. turn up your heat a little bit and bring to a slight boil
  9. then, add in your cauliflower and sweet potato
  10. drizzle a little bit more water on top of the veggies once they are in
  11. stir thoroughly to coat everything in the spices
  12. then, put the lid on your dutch oven/pan and let cook on low-medium heat for about 15-20 minutes
  13. take lid off, sprinkle with some salt and grated ginger - stir together
  14. return lid and allow to cook a little longer, until veggies are cooked to your preference
  15. finally, sprinkle with a pinch of garam masala
  16. garnish with fresh cilantro and a slice of lemon
  17. enjoy
Notes
• I used sweet potatoes in this recipe, but feel free to sub-in white potatoes if you can tolerate them. • We also like things spicy over here...so if you aren't a huge fan of spice, then you may want to play around with the amount and type of spice you add into your mixture. • This is a fantastic dish...that helps satisfy any craving for something with a little 'Indian-infused flair!'

spicy shredded beef tongue

“ICK!”  “GROSS!!”  “NASTY!!!”  “Are you really going to eat that?”  Damn right I am…come on now…gimme some tongue.  When I made this last week, I posted some photos on FB of the whole cooking process.  The comments above were some of the views expressed by folks out there.  I didn’t know that cooking beef tongue would honestly stir up such a buzz.  Aside from the FB banter, some other people even went to the lengths of texting, BBM’ing and calling me to see if I was out of my mind or indeed for real cooking this dish!?  LOL.

Having heard this…you may then wonder, what made you decide to give this dish a go in your own kitchen in the first place?  Well…the answer to that is, Dusty and I had eaten cow tongue a couple times before at this really nice Japanese restaurant.  I am fully up for trying pretty much anything once.  Worst case scenario…if I don’t like it…I won’t make it again.  Pretty simple.  When cooked properly, beef tongue is extremely tender, tasty and basically melts in your mouth.  I wanted to try making it myself.  Something many will never get to experience, because they are simply ‘too scared’ to try new things.  Come on…live a little.  Funny and ironic though, as many of those same people, are cool with eating things like processed hot dogs and other ‘crap food’ with a million and one ingredients in it, that they can’t pronounce!  YUM!!   ;)

Well would you lick at that!  (Thanks Amy Kubal for the pun)  Off topic already.  Okay, back to the tongue (all sarcasm aside).  Beef tongue is part of the cow that has been consumed by various cultures for many years now.  It is a fatty muscle, that is high in protein and B-12 and low in sodium and carbohydrates.  Super nutritious and even more delicious.  About a month ago, while roaming the farmer’s market one fine Saturday morning…I must have had tongue on my mind.  I decided to ask the farmer at the Green Gate stand if they had any tongue left for the taking.  I was indeed in luck, as she replied…’I think we have one left!”  I must have been up and at it earlier than usual that weekend, because they usual sell out quickly.  A minimal eight dollars and change later, and I was off to continue to rest of my shopping.

It came frozen in butcher paper…and stayed that way for a few weeks before I decided to cook this bad boy up.  A huge fan of shredded pork, I knew that I wanted to make this in a similar fashion.  I had also just made a huge batch of my homemade guacamole and salsa…so I thought the shredding of the meat would be the perfect technique to create some lettuce tacos.  The Crock-Pot…aka, the Original Slow Cooker (now my new BFF) had to be a part of this first time experience as well.  NOW, I want to take all of you a a visual and descriptive journey of how to make your own beef tongue…without being frightened.  Come along and have a read, as I break it down into easy-to-follow steps!

spicy shredded beef tongue
Main
4 +
 
Ingredients
  • In the Crock-Pot
  • 1 beef tongue
  • 8 + garlic cloves - whole
  • 2 celery stalks - chopped in pieces
  • 4 shallots - chopped into quarters
  • small handful of whole peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • beef broth - enough to fill pot ¾ way full
  • In the cast iron pan
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil/butter
  • 2 medium onions - finely sliced
  • 1 large bell pepper - finely sliced
  • 1 hot red pepper - finely sliced (optional)
  • 2 tsp ground chipotle
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • sea salt and ground pepper to taste
  • garnish with fresh cilantro - chopped
  • top with homemade guac and salsa
Instructions
  1. if frozen, start by de-thawing meat in the fridge. Open package and stare at the tongue for a few minutes
  2. continue by pouring in your broth (can use homemade or store-bought)
  3. next, add in loads of whole garlic cloves, some chopped up celery, several halved shallots, a sprinkle or two of whole peppercorns and finally a few bay leaves
  4. put the lid on and set it to cook on low heat for 8-10 hours
  5. when your beef tongue has finished cooking, take a pair of tongs and remove it from the liquid and place it on a wooden cutting board (or similar surface)
  6. take a very sharp knife and actually cut and sectioned the tongue into quarters and peel skin
  7. once you have removed and discarded ALL the skin, you are ready to start shredding the meat
  8. take a fork or two and basically start running them through the chunks of meat, to pull it all apart
  9. in a cast-iron pan (preferably), heat some coconut oil or butter on medium
  10. next, add in the thinly sliced onion, bell pepper, hot red pepper and cook until softened
  11. then, scoop out all the cooked garlic cloves, celery and shallots and transfer them into the cast iron pan to join the party
  12. continue cooking on medium-high heat for a few more minutes
  13. after that, take your shredded beef tongue and add it into the pan
  14. next, take a spoon and mix thoroughly, until all the ingredients are combined
  15. finally, sprinkle in your desired spices and continue to stir
  16. garnish with some fresh cilantro
  17. enjoy!

First step.  If frozen, start by de-thawing meat in the fridge.  Open package and stare at the tongue for a few minutes.  To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to react when seeing it for the first time.  I had seen photos before of what a cow’s tongue looks like, so I suppose I wasn’t surprised.  It didn’t really bother me in the least.  I actually thought it was kinda cool!  AND…YES, it totally looks like a tongue, because IT IS ONE. Skin and taste buds to boot.  Don’t worry, you don’t eat that part.  Sorta neat to run your fingers over though.  I wanted to totally take side profile shot with the cow tongue looking as though it was coming out of my mouth. Dusty fully caboshed the idea.  HA!  He said I was getting carried away (maybe he was right!?)  Next, I gave it a wee rinse, and threw it in the Crock-Pot.

Continue by pouring in your broth (can use homemade or store-bought).  I actually had some store-bought beef broth on hand, so I went with that.  Next, add in loads of whole garlic cloves, some chopped up celery, several halved shallots, a sprinkle or two of whole peppercorns and finally a few bay leaves.  As you can see, the bay leaves are not in the photo, because they were somewhat of a late addition.  I added them in after the pic was taken.  Once all the previously mentioned items are in and floating around and hangin’ with the tongue, put the lid on and set it to cook on low heat for 8-10 hours.  I originally set mine for 8 hours, but actually ended up leaving it on a little longer.  It cooked for a total of 9 hours!!!  I figured the longer the better in this case.  I was right…the beef ended up being so juicy and succulent.

Soooooooooooooo…after the 9 hours of cooking away in the Crock-Pot, the house smelled incredible.  We were in and out all day, and every time we walked in the door…we were welcomed with such a comforting aroma.  When your beef tongue has finished cooking, take a pair of tongs and remove it from the liquid and place it on a wooden cutting board (or similar surface).  I think this next little piece in the process is where some folks may get a little squeamish.  Dusty was fully game to eat the end-product, but truthfully wasn’t a huge fan of what needed to be done next.  Oh yes…the removal of the ‘taste buds’, aka taking the ‘skin’ off the tongue.  With a eye (and a hungry belly) focused on the meat inside, I took a very sharp knife and actually cut and sectioned the tongue into quarters.  This size of chunks was much more manageable to work with.  Again, I wasn’t exactly sure how I would do with such a task, but I was totally good.  The ‘skin’ actually peeled off super easy, with minimal effort to be honest with you.

Now…come on…take a look at this beautifulness.  What is not to love right?!?   Once you have removed and discarded ALL the skin, you are ready to start shredding the meat.  Take a fork or two and basically start running them through the chunks of meat, to pull it all apart.  Do so, until you have reach your desired shreddedness (new word).  This step is also quite simple, as the meat basically just falls apart, because of the slow/low temperature cooking time it spent in the Crock-Pot.  Chunk by chunk, continue the same thing, until the whole tongue turns into a nice yummy pile of meat on your cutting board.  Of course at this point I had to sneak a wee nibble and taste.  If somewhat walked into your kitchen and did the same, I assure you that they would probably mistake the tongue for a pot roast or something of that sorts.  Be patient…we are almost there.  At this point, you could eat it just like this (plain), if you so chose to…but we decided that we wanted to spice up our life a little further.

If you have two sets of hands in the kitchen…one of you could be shredding the tongue, while the other is slicin’ and dicing’, while getting prepared to sauté up the veggies on the stove-top.  In a cast-iron pan (preferably), heat some coconut oil or butter on medium.  Next, add in the thinly sliced onion, bell pepper, hot red pepper and cook until softened.  From there, I took a large slotted spoon and removed all the ‘original’ ingredients from the Crock-Pot cooking.  Why waste food right?!  So I scooped out all the cooked garlic cloves, celery and shallots and transferred them into the cast iron pan to join the party.  Continue cooking on medium-high heat for a few more minutes.  After that, take your shredded beef tongue and add it into the pan.  Take a spoon and mix thoroughly, until all the ingredients are combined. Finally, sprinkle in your desired spices and continue to stir.  Once everything looks good-to-go, garnish with some fresh cilantro.  Wash your lettuce leaves to get them ready as well.  Finally, FINALLY…load ‘em up with the spicy shredded beef tongue and top off with some homemade guac and salsa.  Enjoy!  “Be brave.  Try it.  You won’t be disappointed!”

baked chicken thighs – 3 ways!

Chicken thighs…marinated three ways to suit your fancy.  Up until a few weeks ago, I wasn’t even sure if I really cared for good ol’ thighs to be honest with you, as I had never really had them before.  This may be somewhat surprising, but I had previously just overlooked their goodness.  Who knows why?  Basically, the inaugural recipe of such began when I was at the butcher shop, unable to find some chicken breasts for dins one evening.  Sitting lonely, neighbouring the section which once sat the breasts, were some boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  Without much thought, I snagged them and was on my way.

With this new (to me) poultry part in my possession, I decided to get a wee bit creative and whip up some simple, yet flavourful marinades to soak these bad boys in.  I had 12 chicken pieces in total…and decided to separate them equally into three Ziplock bags, containing different marinades.  Funny enough, as it turned out, the night I intended on baking them, I got tied up and just turned to having leftovers that night.  Regardless, they were all ready to go (minus the actually cooking process), so the chicken thighs were fortunate to be able to sit, immerse in the liquid concoctions overnight in the fridge.

Fast forward through the magical world of the www.  Verdict…2 thumbs up!  They turned out super moist and tender, totally filled with an abundance of juicy flavour.  They def get additional bonus points, if you are on a budget, as chicken thighs are a very affordable option.  Similar to that of their white meat counterpart, they can either come with the bone-in or boneless…and also with skin-on or skinless.  The choice here is ultimately yours…personal preference I suppose.  I think I want to try boneless chicken thighs, with the skin-on next time!  Lastly, I must also mention that these delicious chunks of meat serve as terrific leftovers.  I found myself quickly grabbing a couple thighs in the morning for breakfast, as I was literally darting out the door for work.  A super sweet option for those who are often on the go!

Marination is the process of soaking foods in a seasoned, often acidic, liquid before cooking. The origins of the word allude to the use of brine (aqua marina) in the pickling process, which led to the technique of adding flavor by immersion in liquid. The liquid in question, the ‘marinade’, can be acidic with ingredients such as vinegarlemon juice, or wine or enzymatic (made with ingredients such as pineapple or papaya.)[1] Along with these liquids, a marinade often contains oils, herbs, and spices to further flavor the food items.

It is commonly used to flavor foods and to tenderize tougher cuts of meat.[2] The process may last seconds or days. Different marinades are used in different cuisines. For example, in Indian cuisine the marinade is usually prepared with a mixture of spices. (Source: Wikipedia)

Note:  I will try to be as accurate as possible, but not gonna lie – mostly eyeballed it, test-tested and hoped for the best when it came to the amounts of olive oil and balsamic that I put in!!!  I will make these again in the next week or two, and re-jig the recipe to include the exact measurements for y’all.

Marinades (12 chicken thighs total – each marinade was made for 4 chicken thigh pieces each.  You may want to adjust, depending on your quantity)

Balsamic

  • coconut/olive oil – generous amount to coat
  • balsamic vinegar (equal parts oil and vinegar)
  • 3 shallots – finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves – crushed
  • 2 tbsp grainy mustard – good quality
  • coarse sea salt and ground pepper

Lemon

  • coconut/olive oil – generous amount to coat
  • 1.5 lemons – squeezed
  • 3 tbsp Italian seasoned herb mix (dried basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, black pepper)
  • 3 garlic cloves – crushed
  • coarse sea salt and ground pepper

Smoky

  • coconut/olive oil – generous amount to coat
  • 2 limes – juice squeezed
  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 2 shallots or small white onion- finely sliced
  • handful of fresh cilantro – finely chopped
  • 2 tsp ground chipotle
  • 2.5 tsp of chili powder
  • coarse sea salt and ground pepper

Prep

  • for each individual marinade – measure and pour all ingredients into a large Ziploc bag
  • add chicken thighs into the bag and zip closed
  • use your hands to shake and ‘massage’ the marinade mixture into the chicken pieces
  • allow to soak and absorb all the flavours for at least 2 + hours (I let marinade for 24 hours – the longer, the better)
  • when ready, preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • remove chicken thighs from bag, and place in a single layer, in an oven-proof dish (Corningware), covering with the liquid marinade
  • bake for approx. 30-45 minutes, until juices run clear (watch them, as you don’t want to overcook/dry-out)
  • broil for an additional 3-5 minutes if you want the outside crispy (optional)
  • remove, set aside and serve
  • enjoy!

loaded beef & bacon chili

We made this concoction up last night for dins.  Slightly similar to a previous chili recipe of mine, HOWEVER def jazzed up with more flavour and bacon!  I have to say…the bacon was a solid addition.  Today, it has served me very well as a breakfast, lunch AND dinner.  I kid you not!  Some people get all weirded out my eating the same kinds of meals several times in a row and making use of their leftovers.  Not this gal.   More specifically, when it comes to stews, chilies and soups…sometimes they are even better the next day.  Anyhoo, I am keeping in short and sweet tonight.  Hitting the hay…and off to the states tomorrow to do a little shoppy shops!!!  LE CREUSET outlet store…here we come!  TA TA for now…

loaded beef & bacon chili
Main
4 +
 
Ingredients
  • coconut/olive oil- for cooking veggies
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 8-10 slices of bacon - or more if desired!
  • 1 can diced tomatoes- organic (just tomatoes- look at ingredients)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes- same as above
  • 2 package mushroom- quartered into chunks
  • 3-4 large carrots- coined
  • 3 stalks celery - chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion- thickly diced
  • 3 zucchini- diced into chunks
  • 2 red pepper- chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1 tbsp ground smoked chipotle chilies
  • loads of chili powder - add and taste - repeat (to reach desired flavour and colour richness)
  • fresh cilantro- chopped for garnish
Instructions
  1. start by browning the ground beef, on medium heat in a frying pan- set aside
  2. in the meantime, bake the bacon in the oven at 325 degrees, until fully cooked - set aside to cool, then break into chunks
  3. in a separate dutch oven (large), sautee all the veggies in coconut/olive oil on medium heat, until cooked (softened)
  4. drain most of the liquid from the veggies, as you don't want it too watered down
  5. then take the ground beef and bacon pieces and add both to the veggies in the dutch oven
  6. next, add in both cans of tomatoes and stir throughly
  7. then, sprinkle in desired amounts of spices (taste test as you go - we put in lots as that is the way we prefer it!)
  8. let cook on low-medium heat- stirring occasionally
  9. dish and garnish with fresh cilantro
  10. enjoy!
Notes
• The above recipe is wonderful for freezing smaller portions, because of it's size. I also enjoy using the leftovers as a yummy topping on eggs or over greens. • One of my 'readers' the other day, suggested that it may be a tasty topping for my twice baked chipotle sweet potato. Good call!

creamy, yet chunky garlicky guac

I have made guac many times before, but have recently updated my recipe with a couple sweet tweaks here and there. The ‘new & improved’ version, so to speak!  In my opinion, making that perfect guac, honestly has a lot to do with finding the perfect avocados.  Catching them at the right time, is key.  They need to be ripe and ready to go, but not starting to go brown inside.  Sidenote: how many times have you bought avocados and thrown them out???  They go fast!  There lies the fine line. The second point to securing amazing flavour is mincing your fresh garlic, rather than just chopping it up.  I find this makes a huge difference is giving it so much more flavour.  Garlic breath beware!

My new version of homemade guac is creamier, yet still a little on the chunky side.  You know…kinda like ‘crispy’ and ‘saucy’ wings…I like a happy combo of both.  The generous amounts of squeezed lime juice and cilantro make it so FRESH!  I love that guac is so filling and serves so many purposes.  Throw it on some meat, use it as a dip for veggies, top off your fav kind of eggs…or just gobble it up on it’s own!  Whatever the case may be, chances are you will be adding it to anything and everything in sight.  It is so good and highly addictive…I fully ate almost the entire batch (and it was a huge batch) all by my lonesome!  Okay…enough chit chat.  Here is is…

Note:  I have made changes/additions below that differ from my original recipe.

creamy, yet chunky garlicky guac
Condiment, Side
4 +
 
Ingredients
  • 4 large avocados (ripe - soft, but not too soft to the touch)
  • 2-3 small white onions - finely diced
  • 6 plum tomatoes - finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic - minced
  • 2-3 limes - freshly squeezed juice
  • fresh cilantro - chopped (lots!)
  • coarse sea salt - several pinches (I used rosemary & lemon)
  • ground black pepper - generous amounts
  • ground cumin - a pinch or two
  • ground cayenne - a pinch or two
  • hot sauce or chopped jalapenos - to kick it up a notch (optional)
Instructions
  1. peel, cut and de-pit avocados, into a medium-sized bowl
  2. add in onions, tomatoes, garlic and lime juice
  3. using a fork, begin mashing all the ingredients together
  4. then, add in cilantro, sea salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne and hot sauce/jalapenos (optional)
  5. continue the mashing process until you have reached your desired consistency
  6. enjoy!