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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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

Ham Sauce

AH, THE HOLIDAYS.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas or Canada Day, those family get togethers wouldn’t be quite the same without the food. Each Holiday has something to look forward to in the kitchen department, and it just isn’t quite the same without that special something. In our house Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without a turkey, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without Eggs Benedict for breakfast, and Canada Day just isn’t Canada Day without a big family BBQ (although, this year we will be trading our BBQ tongs for fine china because my baby sister is getting MARRIED!).

For me, Christmas Eve isn’t Christmas Eve without ham. My Mum makes the most amazing ham on Christmas Eve and I look forward to it even more than the turkey. You walk into the house on Christmas Eve afternoon and you can just smell that amazing ham smell and you just know   that Christmas is here. The smell transports me to my childhood home and my childhood Christmases every single time. It’s magic. Don’t you just love those moments?
BUT. This last Christmas Eve was without that wonderful meal. And I really missed it. My Christmas Eve wasn’t the same without it. Especially as I knew my family was enjoying my favourite Holiday meal without me. We started a new tradition of alternating Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with our parents so that each could spend quality with us and Liam instead of squeezing all our visiting into one day. We had a wonderful, special day with my Husbands family with plenty of all the good stuff- food, gifts and lots of love. No complaints there.. but.. I didn’t even get a ham care package. Just saying.


So. Happy Easter! Easter is a bit of a wildcard when it comes to the family meal. Obviously the food association here is chocolate. Easter just wouldn’t be Easter without a few bags of Mini Eggs! When it comes to the family meal it is a bit of a wildcard. Turkey, roast beef, roast chicken and lamb have all made an appearance over the years. I have the pleasure of hosting Easter dinner today and alongside the Mini Eggs I will be serving HAM. Christmas Eve ham. Complete with mashed potatoes, asparagus casserole, and the most important part of the ensemble: ham sauce. What is ham sauce, you ask? It’s sweet. It’s smoky. It’s saucy. You’ll love it. You’ll wonder where it’s been all your life. You’ll never eat ham without it again.


HAM SAUCE

INGREDIENTS

1 Cup Heinz 57

1 Cup Liquid Honey

10 Dashes Tobasco

DIRECTIONS

Add ingredients to mason jar.

Shake well.

Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Note: Continues to keep very well in fridge

This sauce is also delicious on BBQ ribs or pulled pork.

Enjoy ❤ KOCHIEMAMA 

Mustache Cookies

IF YOU MUSTACHE.. I AM DELICIOUS!

We celebrated our Little Man’s first birthday last weekend! We hosted an afternoon full of food, friends, family, and a few mustaches. You can check out all the party highlights on the party post.


Fitting with the Little Man theme I whipped up a batch of sugar cookies and cut them using a mustache cookie cutter. They were adorable! More importantly they were delicious and our guests really enjoyed them. In fact, It’s a good thing I taste-tested at least 10 cookies while I was baking and decorating because there were NONE left at the end of the party!

I am not the worlds greatest cookie baker. I’ve always struggled getting a great batch of cookies to come together no matter how closely I follow the recipe. I really needed success this time so I consulted my wonderful friend Nikita for a fool proof cookie dough recipe. She suggested her sugar cookie recipe and I gave it a try.

SUCCESS!

This will now be my go-to cookie recipe forever and ever. I halved the original recipe and made one teeny tiny ingredient adjustment. I had to sub almond extract in place of the vanilla as I didn’t realize I was all out of vanilla extract until I had started making the dough. Almond had to suffice this time but no qualms about that here. The outcome was superbly delicious. I can’t wait to have a need to make cookies again 🙂


After the cookies were cooled I made a simple icing glaze with just icing sugar and water and about two thirds of the cookies. The first third I sprinkled with chocolate sprinkles for a fuzzy mustache look while the glaze was still wet. The remaining cookies I decorated with the left over buttercream from the cupcakes. How cute are they?!



Thank you for saving me from my cookie slump Mrs McElgunn! You can find the original recipe HERE.

Eggs & Bacon Salad

IT ALL STARTED ON THURSDAY. 

We’d been out and about picking up some renovation supplies and we shopped right through dinner. We were famished and decided to pick up some A&W on our way home. I was dreaming of a Teen Burger or Chubby Chicken Burger but rolling up to the drive through the Hubs noticed that Papa burgers were on special 2 for $7. I’d actually never had a Papa Burger so I had no idea what I was getting myself into. By the time we left the drive through we had an order of 2 Papa Burgers, 2 Chubby Buddy Burgers (mini burgers.. because I still wanted chicken) and an apple pie (because what is life without dessert?). They say “don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry”… Perhaps we should add “don’t drive-through when you’re hungry” to those words of wisdom.

We got home and I unwrapped my very first Papa Burger. 2 Thick beef patties in one bun. My starving self had a hard time getting through that much meat… I almost didn’t make it. But, once finished I still wanted that chicken so I ditched the second bun and just ate the delicious crispy fillet. Then, when I really shouldn’t have eaten anything more, I remembered the apple pie.

Commence tummy ache.

And the tummy ache continued until bedtime, the following morning, and well into the afternoon.

Dinner last night required the opposite of the night before. Salad for dinner was all I was in the mood for. One problem, my husband wouldn’t exactly agree! We have this continual problem that about an hour after dinner I am faced with “I’m still hungry” just about every night. If I was going to serve a salad it needed to be seriously filling.

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The Hubs named this salad “Eggs & Bacon Salad” because it has eggs and bacon in it (original, right?!). Despite it being a “salad” he has never grumbled about it because it is fully of really tasty ingredients and is a full-meal-deal in the dinner department. Whenever I make it, it’s never exactly the same twice. It’s a great clean-out-the-fridge dinner and you can add what you love and leave out what you don’t.


EGGS & BACON SALAD

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

2 Grilled Chicken Breasts. Cooled. Thinly sliced.

2 Hardboiled eggs. Cooled. Thinly sliced.

4 Strips Crispy Bacon. Crumbed.

1/2 CUP Ham. Diced.

1/4 CUP Cooked Quinoa. Cooled.

Half green leaf lettuce. Rinsed and chopped.

Half English Cucumber. Chopped.

8 Cherry Tomatoes. Quartered.

1/2 CUP Corn.

2 TBSP Hemp Hearts.

Your favourite salad dressing.

DIRECTIONS:

Arrange half of each of the ingredients onto 2 plates.

Top with a drizzle of your favourite salad dressing.

Note: Serve with a side of grilled naan bread for extra tastiness.
ENJOY!

KOCHIEMAMA

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

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SUNDAY SNOW DAY

We are buried under inches upon inches of the white stuff! The snow started to fall on Friday evening and it hasn’t stopped since. Thankfully the roads are highways are well maintained in this part of the world and getting around hasn’t been too hindered. However, we are taking full advantage of some quality hibernation time and enjoying a quiet weekend at home.

To cut down on grocery costs this month I am really trying to use what I have in the pantry and freezer. The grocery bill got a little out of hand last month so I’m making a commitment to be more conscious of grocery costs and recover from some of the (unfortunately necessary) over spending. I like to keep a well stocked panty and freezer so with some more effort for planning ahead this task shouldn’t be too difficult. 

I was debating making a dessert to go along with the roast beef I made for dinner last night (funny story about that roast beef coming up later this week- stay tuned, friends!). I could eat warm, comforting desserts every single day at the moment. It’s a winter thing. After some thought about what I was in the mood for, and what I had on hand, I spied some past-their-best buns in the bread bin. I had whipped up some home made buns to go with the pulled pork I made on Thursday. I should have frozen what was left over- If you’ve made bread before then you know that it goes stale very quickly. But, instead of preserving their freshness safely in my deep freeze, there they were, getting hard as a rock, on my kitchen counter. How do you save stale bread? You make bread pudding! And, what’s better than bread pudding for dessert? Bread pudding for Sunday Snow Day Brunch.

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In the spirit of using up some of what was on hand I pulled out of the freezer some of the pumpkin I pureed after Halloween, and found an open carton of almond milk in the fridge that needed to be used up. I cubed the buns and left the pieces, uncovered, to dry out for about an hour before continuing the prepare the rest. Then, in a large bowl, I whisked the eggs, sugar, almond milk, pumpkin puree and spices together. The bread cubes got tossed with some melted butter and put in a large, buttered casserole dish, and then the liquid mixture was poured over the top. As this recipe was a first time experiment I had an “Oh, goodness. I think I have way too much liquid here” moment. But, it was the perfect amount. By the time I got my camera ready to take the photo it had already started to absorb into the bread. By this morning it was fully absorbed. So, don’t be alarmed.. lots of liquid is a good thing! I then covered the casserole dish with plastic wrap and set it in the fridge overnight to allow the rest of the magic to happen.

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My Mother-In-Law always stops in for lunch on her way home from church and this would be a tasty warm lunch to serve on a snowy Sunday. About an hour before she arrived I topped the pudding with a sprinkle of brown sugar, cinnamon and some chopped almonds, and popped it in the oven. The house smelled amazing! I served it up with a drizzle of syrup and a side of coffee and baileys. It was a hit! Even the baby devoured it (minus the coffee and baileys, of course!). Aside from all the eggy, pumpkin, sweet bready goodness in this dish… It is also Mother-In-Law approved!

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PUMPKIN BREAD PUDDING

Serves:
4 as a main dish
6 as an accompaniment

Ingredients:
7 stale bread buns (approx. 8 cups)
1 tbsp softened butter (for buttering casserole dish)
1/4 cup melted butter
3 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1 3/4 cups pure pumpkin puree
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
For topping:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sliced or chopped almonds
1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:
1.
Cube bread and set aside for 30 minutes to dry out.
2. In a large bowl beat eggs. Add sugar, almond milk, pumpkin puree, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix well to combine.
3. Butter a large casserole dish.
4. Toss butter and bread cubes to coat. Transfer to the casserole dish.
5. Cover bread with the liquid mixture.
6. Cover with plastic wrap and set in the fridge for at least an hour. Overnight is best.
7. When ready to bake: Preheat oven to 350.
8. Sprinkle the top of the casserole with brown sugar, cinnamon and almonds.
9. Bake for 50 minutes. When casserole has “puffed up” and top is toasty brown it is ready.
10. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Delicious served with a drizzle of syrup!
Enjoy as a main dish or a side to your breakfast favourites.

What do you think, friends? I’d love to hear if you tried this recipe! Comments always welcome.

❤ KOCHIE MAMA