The Leeky Casserole

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

 

Let’s start this post by going back in time a little bit to Valentine’s Day 2015. In general Valentine’s isn’t a massive deal in our house- We don’t exchange gifts, we don’t go out on extravagant dates, in fact, we rarely even go out for a simple dinner. A special date at home, that I put Simon in charge of arranging, is more typical for us. One year Simon attempted to make heart-shaped pancakes for dinner {and then went a bit wrong so I had to take over}, another time he surprised me by taking me to an outdoor skating rink.

I’m getting off topic. ANYWAY.

Valentine’s Day 2015 we decided to do something totally different. My sister heard that a local golf course was doing an exclusive 4-course dinner and it sounded pretty — well, extravagant— but we decided to go for it. We booked a table with my Sister and her Now-Husband and set off for a fancy Valentine’s night out.

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So, we ordered some wine and we’re sitting at the table looking over the evenings menu {drooling– it all looked amazing}. Each course had two choices. An outburst of laughter comes from my left followed by “I don’t get it.. why do they call it a leak?” And more laughter. Huh?? “Right here, it says “Smoky bacon, potato, leek soup… what, is it leaking out of the bowl?!”.

OMG.

Dear Darling Husband; a leek is a vegetable.

He hasn’t lived it down.

{Neither has my sister for asking moments later if there were scallops IN the scalloped potatoes}

Yup, we eat at fancy places a lot. Can’t you tell? The soup was divine, by the way.

{… What has this got to do with Thanksgiving….?}

So, fast forward to last weekend. I made the commitment to host my very first solo Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve hosted before but I’ve had a lot of help. I wanted to really do it alone- I’ve really been wanting to check that off my bucket list.

I settled in for a hour of downtime and tuned into my girl, Ree, and it just happened to be a Thanksgiving episode {surprising considering American Thanksgiving is more than a month away} said in which she featured a Potato Leek Casserole. It was a sign from above that this was a side dish that was destined to be on my Thanksgiving table.

Some may say it’s risky to try a new dish for company, let alone a Holiday dinner, but Ree has never failed me. Everything I’ve ever made by The Pioneer Woman has been excellent.

So, I put together my feast for 7 adults, plus 3 that needed care plates, and the littlest Kochie. I chose, purchased, prepped, stuffed, basted and roasted that beautiful bird solo. On the side I served 2 kinds of stuffing, mashed potatoes, Potato Leek Casserole, broccoli casserole, carrots and buns.

It all went perfectly! I accomplished the feat by myself, with the exception of my potato mashing Mother In Law and my gravy making Mama. Oh, and also dessert- I delegated that to the Kuchen lady at the local farmers market, and my Mother In Law for her amazing pumpkin pie.

I was pretty darn proud of myself. If I do say so myself.

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The Potato Leek Casserole was delicious {I reassured Simon that no leaking would occur}. The only substitution I made was the cheese on top. I couldn’t find Fontina so I looked up suitable substitutions and used a combo of mozzarella and Monterey Jack. Scrumptious. You can find the recipe HERE

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Happy Thanksgiving! What did you make for dinner this weekend?

❤ Kochiemama

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HELLO OCTOBER

BRRR! We woke up this morning to a winter storm warning. Yes, already. On October first. Yesterday was a beautiful 24º and I wore short-shorts for what will probably be the last time this year #insertsadface. We are expecting 15-20cm of snow in the next 24 hours and I wouldn’t say I’m happy about it. Fall is lovely- Winter is not my favourite. 3 Weeks ago we were still pushing 35º! It’s just all happened so quickly and I’m not ready!

But, enough complaining. No one can control the weather.

hello october

I started September with a fresh get-back-on-track attitude and committed to some Fall Resolutions . I would say that I started with my best intentions but as the month wore on I started to fall back off track. The continued hot weather got the best of me and I slipped back into those lazy summer habits, and, overall it was a very busy month. Here’s how I did:

  1. Meal Plan For The Month As A Whole
    Well, I rocked at the planning! I had the calendar filled with 30 different meals using what I mostly already had in the freezer and pantry and utilizing leftovers with no repeats. Buuuuut, I didn’t rock so much with the following through. Week 1 went perfectly. Week 2 went ok- I missed a couple of plans. Week 3 and 4 were pretty non existent. As soon as I am done this post I will start working on October.. Hopefully I will do much better this month!
  2. Cut Grocery Spending- Save $50 Each Month From The Budget
    This was a tricky one this month. I needed to do a big pantry re-stock and we were running out of all those expensive household things like laundry soap, dishwasher soap, paper towels and toilet paper. I did, however, manage to ring in $44 under budget- YAY!! All money saved from Groceries between now and the end of November will go towards Christmas.
  3. Reconnect With Yoga- Go 4 Times/ Month 
    I went the first week!! It was GREAT! My balance and strength were not what they used to be but I thought I kept up pretty well. I didn’t make it again after the first week, though. The hubs worked late a few times so it didn’t work out and the last 2 weeks of the month were super busy and it just didn’t work out to go again. I’m not giving up on this though- I stopped in and purchased a 20- class punch card this week so I am pre-paid and good to go for at least until the end of the year now 🙂
  4. No Coffee Until After Breakfast
    This one was to get myself to eat that all-important meal of the day. I would say overall I ate breakfast more times this month that usual, but I didn’t eat every morning. But, the morning I didn’t have breakfast I didn’t have coffee either so I did achieve what I sort-of set out to. It did mean that on mornings I had coffee out I also spent extra on eating breakfast out too. A valiant effort if I do say so myself.
  5. Catch Up On All Family Multi-Media
    Nope. No progress here.
  6. MOVE
    Nope. No progress here either. We just did another price reduction so we are being proactive. Fingers crossed it happens soon.
  7. Take Some Time For Myself Once A Week
    Good news- I DID make time to watch “You’ve Got Mail” and it was wonderful. I also went to the one yoga class. And, my sister and I hosted a sign workshop with some friends. That was about it though- But, three out of four weeks isn’t too bad, right?

hello fall

October doesn’t just mean earlier evenings and the first snow fall- It also means the start of Holidays! I am hosting Thanksgiving next weekend. Although my Mama will be here to help me I am going to make a point to do the whole turkey part myself. I’ve cooked turkey twice before in my kitchen, but both times I had assistance from a pro. This time I’m feeling confident enough to do it myself. Wish me luck!

I can start planning ahead for Christmas! Lots of exciting things coming up and plenty to share with you

Chat soon, friends.

❤ KOCHIEMAMA

 

 

ROASTED RED PEPPER & GARLIC TOMATO SAUCE

A SAUCY SEPTEMBER LONG WEEKEND

Mm Mm Mm. How can you not take advantage of harvest season and the very best produce of the year being ripe and ready to devour? Sadly, the peak season is short lived and we all wish we could bottle it up and save it to have through the winter months. Well, it so happens that you CAN bottle it up- canning is a popular way to preserve all sorts of produce at this time of year. It’s an art. A practice of careful steps to ensure the jars are preserved properly so as not to make anyone come down with a case of botulism. In other words, a technical, intimidating process that I am not comfortable doing without the assistance of a much adultier-adult than me (for example, my In-Laws- they are pro’s!). So, if canning isn’t an option for you, how can you still bottle it up for a rainy day? Use your freezer!

We had planned to get away for the Labour Day Weekend but we decided against it at the last minute and opted for a stay-cation instead. I thought I would start with stocking the freezer with some home made tomato sauce- a staple in this household! I started the Saturday morning bright and early with a trip to a local greenhouse to round up everything I needed. Here in SE Alberta we are incredibly lucky to have greenhouse fresh produce at our finger tips. When purchasing right from the source is it a bargain. I left with everything I needed for only $18! That made 14 2-Cup portions- That’s only $1.24 each. You just can’t beat that.

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Making sauce is a process. It is time consuming and requires your full attention. It’s the kind of kitchen work that should be rewarded with a bubble bath and a glass of wine at the end it of- you’ll be exhausted! From start to finish this took me about 5 hours, not including cooling and freezer bagging.

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ROASTED RED PEPPER & GARLIC TOMATO SAUCE

INGREDIENTS

10lbs Tomatoes
1 Head Garlic
2lbs Red Peppers (Approx 7)
2 Red Onions (Chopped)
2 Yellow Onions (Chopped)
2 Tsp Salt
2 Tsp Pepper
2 Tbsp Sugar
2 Tbsp Dried Basil

Get a couple of your biggest pots out and fill one about half way with water and get in on to boil. The other you’ll use for the tomatoes once they are blanched so just have that handy for a little later. While your water is boiling you want to get roasting your red peppers. Crank your oven up to 450º. Line a baking sheet with foil. Rinse and dry the peppers (leave them whole). Rub a little olive oil all over the skins and put them on the lined sheet. If you like your garlic roasted go ahead and add your cloves to the same pan.

Once in the oven the skins will blacken rather quickly. Check on them every 10 minutes and turn them until all sides of the skin have blackened- About 25-30 minutes.

When your peppers are nicely blackened on all sides take them out of the oven and get them into a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until later. The plastic wrap will cause the peppers to sweat and will make the skins so much easier to get off later.

While your peppers are roasting get started on the first step of the tomato prep- blanching. Add a few tomatoes to the boiling water and watch for the skins to start cracking. This is what it looks like when the skins start to separate from the inside. When you see that the skin has cracked all over remove the tomato from the pot with a slotted spoon and get into a colander to cool. Rinse with cold water so its easier to handle and then peel the skin off. Discard the skin. Quarter your tomato and put in the second empty pot you have handy. Repeat until all the tomatoes are de-skinned.

Once your tomatoes are all blanched and have the skin removed get this big pot on a medium heat. Add the chopped onions and garlic. To deal with the peppers simply slice down the middle and pull the flesh away from the skin. The seeds will also easily peel away. Discard the skins and seeds. Add the peppers to the tomato pot.

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Bring the pot to a boil then turn down the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. When everything is tender get your immersion blender out and carefully blend the mix until smooth. Once smooth add the salt, pepper, basil and sugar. Why sugar, you ask? If you taste the sauce without sugar you will find there is a bitterness to it. The sugar will counteract this. Stir. Continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.

IMPORTANT! Be sure to TASTE your sauce to decide if it needs more seasonings. All tomatoes are different. Bitter? Add more sugar. Too sweet? Add more salt. Needs more pepper? Basil? If you like a sauce with a little kick don’t be afraid to add a pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes. Your personal preference may be that you would like more of something. Tasting is a critical step to ensuring that you have a great sauce that you and your family will really enjoy.

Once you are happy with the consistency and the flavour of the sauce you have 2 choices:
1. Turn off the heat and set the pot aside to cool (this will take several hours).
2. Can it. I don’t have any directions to offer for this. You will either have to a- be versed and confident in this process, or b- find an adultier-adult that can assist you in the next steps!

If you choose to freeze the sauce you will need to wait until its totally cooled. Label and date medium sized freezer bags and then divide your sauce into the bags. I did 2 cups per bag but you can do more or less depending on your portion size preference. The average pasta sauce jar is around the equivalent of 2 cups.

KOCHIEMAMA TIP: Fill your bags by using a cup or similar container. Put the bag inside folding the top over the rim. Easily pour your sauce into the bags without spilling or making too much mess.

Seal your bags firmly, getting out as much air as possible. Stack the bags flat and freeze them flat- this gives you the most efficient use of space for storing them in the freezer.

When you’re ready to use the sauce you can defrost and use thawed. I have used the sauce from frozen in the slow cooker, and partially thawed for stove top cooking if I didn’t think ahead to thaw it earlier in the day. Both methods have been successful for me.

Did you make sauce this season? What do you love to add?

Until next time
❤ KOCHIEMAMA