Chilled Couscous salad

Author: Cooped Up Chick  //  Category: Salads, September 2011

 

I will start off by saying I have NEVER made couscous in my life. I have eaten it a time or two and it was good but I had no idea how to make it. I was craving a pasta salad, one I have made many times and I thought to myself “Why don’t I substitute the fusili for that couscous that has been hanging out in my pantry for a year?”

I didn’t see the harm in giving it a try. First I had to figure out how to COOK the couscous! I turned to my trusty friend, Google. You see I bought the couscous at the Bulk Barn so there wasn’t any box with instructions on the side. Google came through for me yet again!! 2 cups of water and 1 1/3 cups of dry couscous and you’ll have a shish-load of couscous at your disposal!

Boil the water in a saucepan with a sprinkle of salt. Remove the pot from the heat once it boils and add the couscous. Stir, cover and let it stand for 10 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork and scrape into a mixing bowl. Put it in the fridge for 1 hour to cool.

Meanwhile chop up your veggies. I used red and green pepper, sweet onion, tomatoes and fresh parsley. If I had some cucumber I would have thrown that in there too. The pasta salad I usually make has a Mediterranean type feel to it.

For the dressing I used 1/2 cup of Roasted Red Pepper and Parmesan salad dressing and 1/2 cup of Sundried Tomato and Oregano, both by Kraft. You could use whatever type strikes your fancy but make sure it is an oil and vinegar type of dressing. Otherwise its going to be too heavy and one of the nicest things about eating this salad (other that it TASTES great of course) is how light and fluffy it is. I also like some feta cheese in this pasta salad.

Once your couscous has cooled sufficiently add it into the veggies and mix well.

Add to a separate bowl only as much as you want to eat immediately. Once you add the dressing it would get mushy if kept too long. Just with the pasta and the veggies it will keep in the fridge nicely for a few days. Add some crumbled feta cheese.

Add your dressing…just until moistened.

Dress it up with a sprig of fresh parsley and you are GOOD TO GO!!

 

I was quite impressed at how well my favorite pasta salad translates into a couscous dish. It was really really good and i’m sure with different veggies, a different dressing, etc. it would be just as good. I have the feeling there will be some couscous experimenting in my future!! Mushroom and Balsamic, Shrimp and Italian dressing…the possibilities are endless!

Enjoy!

love, peace and chicken grease,

-A Cooped Up Chick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Cheaters Pumpkin Spice cookies

Author: Cooped Up Chick  //  Category: Desserts, September 2011

 

I have been making pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for years but there are 13 ingredients and they are so time consuming that even though I want to EAT them I don’t want to MAKE them. My son is starting to hate me because they are his favorite and i’m just too damn lazy to make them!

I have a brilliant friend at work (Hi Kathy!) that gave me this recipe. Not sure if I should thank her or hate her because now I will not have any excuses why I can’t make cookies. “I’m broke” won’t cut it either $1.89 for the cake mix $3.99 for the pumpkin. Brendan KNOWS that its only $6 for a bottle of wine (i’m cheap) so he’ll tell me to cut out my “medicine” instead and make him some cookies. 🙂

All you need for the cookies are 2 ingredients. Yes. I said 2.

The required ingredients are:

1 can of pure pumpkin

1 box of Duncan Hines spice cake mix

I added a couple of ingredients. Kathys response….”Of course you did.”

This would be MY list of ingredients:

1 can of pure pumpkin

1 box of Duncan Hines spice cake mix

1 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips

1/2 tsp pumpkin spice

for the icing:

1/2 block of cream cheese

1/2 cup of icing sugar, sifted

1/2 tsp vanilla

 

 

Put your cake mix in a bowl and add the pumpkin spice.

Add the can of pumpkin

Mix well

Now I divided the batter into two separate bowls. One bowl I left as is and the other I added the chocolate chips.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 17-19 minutes or until the cookies bounce back when you touch them.

Allow to cool on wire racks.

 

To the ones without chocolate chips I wanted a cream cheese icing. So in a bowl I combined with a hand mixer, the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla.

Put the icing in a small baggie and clip off the end.

Squirt the icing in a circular motion onto the cookie.

 

Sprinkle with a little more pumpkin spice.

 

These were super simple cookies and taste ALMOST as good as my super complicated ones!!

Enjoy! (Thanks Kathy!!)
love, peace and chicken grease,

-A Cooped Up Chick

Spice Rubbed grilled Flank steak with Chimichurri (WHOA Garlic!)

Author: Cooped Up Chick  //  Category: Beef Dishes, Main Course, September 2011

 

I love steak.  I love sauces. I love spices.

Because of this, I thought the recipe I saw on The Rachael Ray show would be right up my alley and by GOD I was right.

I have only ever had flank steak once before. It was at Club Ambiance in Jamaica. I went to Jamaica in November 2009 to surprise a friend with another friend from Calgary who was ALSO going to surprise a friend for his birthday (did you follow that? I was there and still just got lost in the description). It was a whirlwind trip that I think lasted a total of 53 hours. I don’t remember a whole lot about the trip, it was kind of a blur but I remember the flank steak. 🙂

So on the show she made a mixed grill of steak, shrimp and sausage with an Argentinian chimichurri sauce. I had never had chimichurri before but there was nothing in it I didn’t like and it looked sort of like pesto, which I am familiar with so I thought i’d give it a go.

For the chimichurri sauce you will need:

Fresh flat leaf parsley

Fresh oregano

Fresh thyme

Fresh cilantro

garlic cloves, 2-3 peeled

sweet red pepper

fresno pepper (can substitute jalapeno or cherry pepper)

lime zest and juice

red onion

red wine vinegar

olive oil

 

 

Wash your fresh herbs and towel dry. Pull the leaves off the parsley and throw out the stems.

You will need approximately 2 cups of parsley. Place in the food processor.

Fresh oregano can be very overpowering if you use too much. Use about 15 leaves in the chimichurri.

Take 3-4 springs of thyme and put the leaves in the food processor.

The easiest way to remove the leaves from the woody stick is to pinch between your thumb and forefinger and slide in the opposite direction from the way in which they grow.

I like to use a generous amount of cilantro. I think the fruitiness really adds a little something extra to the sauce. You will want about  1/2 cup of cilantro leaves.

Slice and take out the ribs and seeds from your hot pepper…I like the Fresno pepper for the color and the fact that its only about a 2 out of 10 on the hot factor (about the same as a jalapeno). Give it a rough chop and add to the processor. Add about 1/4 of a small red onion as well.

Do the same to the sweet red pepper, I only used about half of it.

Take the lime and zest into the processor. Try not to get any of the white part (pith) into the sauce. It can be very bitter.

Zest in the garlic as well. It is a garlicky recipe but the last thing you want to do is get a big chunk of raw garlic in a mouthful of sauce. NOT pleasant.

Squeeze the juice of the lime in as well. Add 1/4 cup of Olive Oil and 3Tbsps of Red wine vinegar. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and blend well.

Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving. It will just help to blend the flavors.

Meanwhile mix together the spices for the steak.

Take a teaspoon of sweet paprika, smoky cumin and ground coriander. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Drizzle the steak generously with Olive oil and coat with the spice mix.

Grill for 6-8 minutes on each side on a medium-high BBQ for a nice pink center.If you like your steaks more well done, grill for 10-12 minutes on each side.

Let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing with the grain of the meat.

 

If you have time, a wonderful accompaniment with this dish is slow roasted tomatoes.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Take the core out of the tomato and drizzle with Olive oil, salt and pepper.

Roast for an hour and a half. You don’t want them to dry out…these tomatoes are still juicy but the roasting brings out this incredible sweetness.

 

I served the meal with a gently warmed, crusty bread. It was great for sopping up all the juices, spice mix with steak, tomato mixed with salt. YUM!!!!

 

Enjoy!

love, peace and chicken grease,

-A Cooped Up Chick

 

 

 

 

A Quick and Simple Chili

Author: Cooped Up Chick  //  Category: Beef Dishes, Main Course, September 2011

 

It was always comforting to me on a cold, winters day to have a big bowl of stew or chili. Since the days have been getting shorter and there is now a distinct chill in the air I thought I would make a big batch of chili and freeze some. Winter is on its way and its lovely to have some chili in the freezer so all you have to do is take it out, pop it in the microwave (or I prefer a double boiler) and within minutes you’ll have that steaming bowl to warm up your insides.

I have been having a recent love affair with hot dogs too and I must admit, I LOVE me some chili dogs.  If you have never had a chili dogs with coleslaw on it you are MISSING out…it may sound weird to you but all those West Virginians can’t be wrong!

Another great use for leftover chili (because you KNOW I can’t make a small batch) is baked potatoes. See my post in July (http://acoopedupchick.com/july-2011/super-stuffed-taco-chili-potato/). It started out like a whatever-you-can-find-in the-fridge potato and turned into one of the yummiest potatoes I have ever eaten!!! Don’t forget the bacon!! It makes it!

I love to re-purpose leftovers. Sure its cool to just reheat what you had yesterday but that gets boring after awhile and lets face it, as a single mom on a budget I have gotten pretty good at making large, cheap batches of soups, stews, casseroles and the like. You need to figure out ways to make yesterdays dinner into a completely different meal tomorrow or a finicky 15yr old just may not eat it. Even if all that is is adding some nacho chips to dip in the chili. It makes it different then the day before.

For this chili recipe you will need:

1 lb of browned ground beef (I like lean)

1 small sweet onion, in the food processor or diced fine

1 small green pepper, diced

2 ribs of celery, in the food processor or diced fine

mushrooms (I prefer fresh but you can use canned)

1 can of diced tomatoes (you could use crushed if you like a “smoother” chili without hunks of tomato)

1 can of tomato sauce

1 can of kidney beans, rinsed well

1 can of baked beans in molasses

2 cloves of chopped garlic

1 can of tomato paste or cornmeal to thicken (not required unless you like a really thick chili)

1/4 cup of chili powder (adjust to your personal tastes and you can either use Hot chili powder or regular)

 

Start by browning your meat in a frying pan. Set aside in some paper towel to soak up most of the fat.

Add some olive or vegetable oil to your stock pot (or large saucepan) and turn to medium. Add your onions and cook until almost translucent. This is sweating the onions. It is just to soften them and bring out the natural sweetness. You can add just a dash of salt to help the onions sweat faster and add a lid to the pot. Periodically stir the onions with a rubber spatula. This will only take about 4 minutes.

Add your chopped mushrooms and celery. Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes or until the mushrooms are softened. Add your chopped garlic and saute for a minute.

Now its time to add your browned hamburger into the pot and cook for a couple of minutes to incorporate the flavors.I add a dash of Jamaican Jerk seasoning here. Its not necessary but I love Jamaican spice and think it adds just another level of spice to the chili but I know not everyone has access to a good Jerk.

Pour in your tin of tomatoes and tomato sauce.

You have to rinse your kidney beans before adding to the pot. They have almost a slimy coating before rinsing and I don’t know about you but its not very appetizing to me. Just place the tin of beans in a colander and rinse with cool water until no longer slimy. Get your hands in there and move them around.

Add your brown beans and the rinsed kidney beans.

Add the chili powder and adjust to your own taste. Start by putting only half of the recommended amount and simmer the chili for 10 minutes or so. Taste. If you want more….add more. Remember, you can always ADD more spice….its more difficult to correct if you have added too much. It will take approximately 10 minutes after every addition of spice for it to incorporate into the chili so don’t add it too quickly.

Simmer for at least one hour before eating. I like to allow it to simmer for 3-5 hours. It melds the flavors nicely and breaks down the peppers, onions and celery so its almost like they aren’t even there. It mellows the chili out more and turns a good chili into a GREAT one. If you find that your chili is not as thick as you would like then now is the time to add the tomato paste (you may have to add a little more chili powder if you do this) or a Tbsp of cornmeal. Just remember though, the longer you simmer your chili the thicker consistency you will get.

 

Oh and don’t forget the chili dogs! One of my favorite re-purposing recipes! Try it with fine diced onions and the coleslaw….you won’t be disappointed!

Enjoy!

love, peace and chicken grease,

-A Cooped Up Chick

 

 

 

A Peasants Supper

Author: Cooped Up Chick  //  Category: Main Course, September 2011

 

I never realized how many different regional “styles” of hot dogs there are. I grew up on boiled dogs with ketchup, mustard and raw onions and thought that that was the cats meow (no cats were harmed in the making of my dogs).

It was unknown to me that there are different styles of hot dogs for different regions of the world.

For example, a Chicago dog has a steamed all-beef, natural-casing hot dog topped with chopped onion, sliced tomato,  a dill pickle spear, sweet pickle relish (a particularly bright green style of relish, referred to as “neon” green relish), yellow mustard, pickled peppers and is finished with celery salt. All of this is served on a steamed poppy seed bun. There is no variation on this AND if you DARE ask for ketchup you will be taken out back and flogged.

A Kansas City dog is served with sauerkraut and Swiss cheese (eww!)

In West Virginia you ask for your dog “all-the-way” and will get it with yellow mustard, chopped onions, chili (or “sauce”), and cole slaw (this sounds DELISH!).

A Montreal dog is topped with coleslaw, diced onions, relish and yellow mustard.

There is a multitude of variations outside of Canada and the US too.

In Japan you could get kimchi, teriyaki or wasabi on your hot dog!

In Denmark your dog would usually include a red sausage, ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion and a mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish.

I found it fascinating that all over the world you could get something so familiar as a hot dog but with such unfamiliar toppings.

In my search for what to put on tonights supper I came across some interesting suggestions. On a blog called ‘Chow Hounds’ there was a topic on favorite dog toppings. Some that I want to try (and did tonight) are:

*a Guadalajara Dog – with sour cream, tomatoes, and onions

*Two/three sliced tomato wedges, two thinly sliced white onion slivers, two long wedges of sliced pickle, mustard, tabasco and salt.

*I found the following post “My mom used to make a relish for our annual street BBQ. It had chopped onion, dill pickles, tomatoes, hot banana peppers, a squirt of mustard, and a bit of Olive Oil & vinegar.” (I added some dill pickle juice, a dollop of ketchup and a sprinkle of celery salt. It was AWESOME!!!)


What you’ll need:


Sweet onion (Vidalia)

Pickled Hot Banana peppers

Diced Tomatoes

Dill Pickle (I like the ‘Tangy’ variety)

Yellow prepared Mustard

Ketchup

Celery Salt

Olive oil

White Vinegar

First I put 5 slices of sweet onion and 3 rings of Hot Peppers in my mini food processor. Diced them nice and fine. Put them in a small mixing bowl.


Then added diced dill pickle,


Added diced tomatoes


A squirt of ketchup (about a teaspoon)


Some mustard (about half a teaspoon), 1 tsp of dill pickle juice, 1/2 tsp Olive oil, 1/2 tsp white Vinegar and a sprinkle of Celery salt.



First I fried the hot dogs in a frying pan. Then I couldn’t decide on just one dog so I split mine in half and made a slawdog out of one and a version of the above relish for the other half.

On the first side I put some homemade slaw (shredded cabbage and carrot, pureed sweet onion and green pepper and Presidents Choice brand Coleslaw Dressing) and a line of BBQ sauce. Kinda my version of a West Virginia dog. IT WAS SOOOOOOO GOOD!


On the second half I put the spicy relish, a line of Miracle whip and a line of yellow mustard. Also VERY yummy.

I made some homemade fries to go along with it and a huge blob of coleslaw. (psst…secret to great homemade fries is to fry them twice. The first time at 300 degrees for 5 minutes. Let them rest for at LEAST 10 minutes and then fry again for 5-8 minutes at 375 degrees. Dab off most of the oil and salt and pepper the fries immediately).


It was one of the best, easiest, fastest and tastiest suppers we have had in a long time. Just goes to show you can fancy up any old hot dog with some out of the ordinary condiments but still save a boat load of time for other things…like watching ‘Thor’ with your kid. (good movie btw!)

Enjoy!

love, peace and chicken grease,

-A Cooped Up Chick

 

 

I’m all OVA this Pavlova!

Author: Cooped Up Chick  //  Category: Desserts, September 2011

 

A lovely lady that I sit with at work, named Wendy, was describing the dinner she had with her family on the past weekend and was telling us about this dessert they had called a Pavlova. I had never heard of it before, let alone seen or eaten one, yet it sounded very intriguing.

She was kind enough to email me the recipe that very same day and I decided to take on the challenge. But not before I explored the online world of Google to find out more about this dessert.

Pavlova was a meringue based dessert that was created and named for the famous Russian ballet dancer, Anna Pavlova. This dessert sparked a national argument between Australia and New Zealand as to who was the creator but after formal research it has been concluded that New Zealand gets the honor. (Wikipedia)

Most people make the Pavlova in a large 7-9 inch circle. This would be great for a large dinner however since it is just me and Brendan I decided to make 6 small Pavlovas. Once the Pavlova is decorated with your choice of ingredients then it must be consumed right away because the outer crispy shell will absorb the moisture and collapse. I thought this was the best way for us to enjoy it without having to toss out the leftovers. Apparently a dry Pavlova can keep well for a few days.

There is a multitude of ingredients you can use ranging from whipped cream to custard and from passion fruit to berries. I decided on a traditional Pavlova with whipped cream and a mix of fresh berries (straw, red, black and blue) and some mashed strawberries that I had frozen from our berry picking in July. Brendan decided on whipped cream, berries and shaved chocolate.

Some common problems with baking a Pavlova are:

*a flat Pavlova…have SCRUPULOUSLY clean utensils. Any grease, moisture, dust in your bowl will ruin your Pavlova.

*a cracked Pavlova…too much initial heat. Preheat your oven and then turn it down. Make sure to have a partial cool down IN the oven as well.

*a weeping Pavlova…make sure to beat your egg whites to soft peaks BEFORE adding the sugar and be sure to add the sugar VERY slowly.

Here is my version of a Pavlova (and I must say it turned out beautifully!)

What you will need:

6 egg whites, at room temperature (it is easier to separate your eggs when they are cold but then set aside your whites on the counter, covered for 30 minutes.)

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp white vinegar

1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

1 1/2 cups super fine sugar (if you don’t have any, take regular granulated sugar and place in your food processor and run for 60 seconds.)

Berries of choice

whipped cream

chocolate?

Position the rack in the oven in the center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and draw 6 small 4 inch circles. Turn the paper over so the ink is on the opposite side.

Beat the egg whites in your stand mixer (or use a hand mixer) until soft peaks form.

Slowly incorporate your sugar 1 Tbsp at a time. This will seem tedious but it is very important NOT to rush this step. Periodically test the meringue by taking a bit and rubbing between your fingers. If it still feels gritty from the sugar then you are not done mixing yet.

Once the sugar is all in and the meringue feels smooth mix in the vanilla.

Remove the bowl from the stand and gently fold in the cornstarch (sifted) and vinegar with a rubber spatula. Make sure it is blended well yet do NOT vigorously stir.

Place meringues on the parchment paper and form into circles.

 

Place pan in the oven and IMMEDIATELY reduce the heat to 250 degrees. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN until you reach a minimum of 45 minutes of baking time. At this point the Pavlovas should be crisp on the outside to the touch yet still a nice, pale cream color.

Now turn off the oven and leave the Pavlovas in for another 30 minutes to cool down.

Open the oven door and allow another 10 minutes of cool down time.

Now you can remove them from the oven and transfer gently to a cooling rack.

 

A perfect uncracked, not-weeping, shiney, smooth Pavlova…

Top with cream, berries and shaved chocolate.

Brendans…

Mine…

One of the most satisfying things is the initial crunch you get when you first break through the crust of the Pavlova. Then you get to the marshmallowy, sweet, gooey center. Its similar to the breaking of a creme brulee.

This is a decadent, sugary dessert not to be enjoyed by a diabetic! I really enjoyed the contrast in the sweet Pavlova, the creamy whipped cream and the tart berries.

I will make these again. My son will probably make me. He REALLY enjoyed them!

 

Enjoy!

love, peace and chicken grease,

-A Cooped Up Chick