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I started this blog a few years ago. Since then I have been maintaining a second blog related to homeschooling. There is so much overlap between the two that I decided to merge the two into one. I will slowly be transferring all of the content from this blog over to the new address. So if you would like to enjoy the past content with access to fresh new content, head on over to Hopeful & Homemade. 

Seven Days of Soup: Stovetop Beef Stew

2stew      Ok, so today’s “soup” is actually a stew. I have a history of sucking at stews. I’m talking a no taste, chew for hours, hurt your jaw kind of terrible. If I tried a shorter cook time for tender beef, I was left with raw veggies. Nothing like biting into a crunchy potato, eh? Yech.  I’m pleased to announce that I finally figured it out and it only took me 8 years of cooking for my family. The beef was delicious and easy to chew and there was lots of flavour!

INGREDIENTS

2-3lb cubed beef
2 tsp montreal steak spice
1/4c flour + 1 tbsp for later
3 tbsp oil (coconut or veggie)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup full bodied red wine
4 cups beef broth
1 tsp basil
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 large potatoes, cubed
3 large carrots, sliced
1 cup peas
salt to taste

METHOD

1. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. In a plastic bag, combine flour and steak spice. Add beef to bag and shake to coat beef evenly with flour mixture. Add half of the coated beef to the pot, shaking off excess flour. Allow to brown, stirring once or twice to turn beef. (About 5 mins or so) Remove seared beef to a dish and repeat with remaining meat. Remove rest of beef to the bowl and set aside.

2. Once your beef is out, add onions (and a drizzle more oil if needed). Stir occasionally and allow onions to soften. You can season with some salt and pepper at this point. Once onions are browned (about 5 mins), stir in tomato paste and allow the flavour to cook out for about 2 minutes. Look for the tomato paste to darken in colour slightly.

3. Add a tbsp of flour and mix, scraping any bits off the bottom of the pot. Add in your red wine and cook for about 4 minutes, whisking constantly until your mixture thickens.

4. Add meat and any juices back into the pot and give it a stir. Add beef broth and basil. Stir well and turn heat to high, bringing everything to a boil. Reduce heat to low/medium-low and allow everything to simmer uncovered for 1 hour.

5. Add in your chopped celery, carrots and potatoes. Stir and cover with a tight fitting lid. Allow everything to cook until the veggies are tender. (About an hour)

6. Remove lid, add in peas and turn heat down to lowest setting. Add additional salt to taste at this point. Make sure to taste it, as steak spice often contains salt and you don’t want to overdo it. Give it a stir and let it rest with the lid off for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Serve with cheese and crusty bread, or over your favourite egg noodles.  Yum!

Seven Days of Soup: Cream of Mushroom

1mushroom

I don’t know what the weather’s like where you are, but here we are experiencing what seems like an endless ice age. Temperature records here in Southern Ontario are being shattered on a daily basis. Nothing melts away the cold like a hot bowl of soup or stew. This week we will be enjoying a variety of both and I am pleased to share some of our favourite recipes.  Today’s recipe came about when my dad was visiting and I thought to myself “I want mushroom soup”. I had a basic knowledge of how to cream soups go together (they’re all very much the same) and I had mushrooms, so I threw it together.

Ingredients:
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
1 clove garlic, minced*
1 smallish-medium onion, diced
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup light cream or milk
2 cups fresh, sliced mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste.

* If you don’t have fresh garlic, a sprinkle of garlic powder will do.

Method:
1. Melt butter over medium heat on stovetop. Add diced onion and allow to soften/brown slightly. Add in the mushrooms and allow them to cook down and release their juices (5 minutes or so). Add in minced garlic clove.

2. With a whisk, stir in flour until you have a somewhat crumbly consistency, then begin to whisk in the chicken broth in small amounts at a time, allowing it to thicken quite a bit between each addition. (You’ll be adding milk or cream which will thin things out quite a bit, so go ahead an let it get quite thick.. less soupy and more saucy at this point)

3. Add the milk or cream in the same way. (Gradually and whisking well and allowing to thicken slightly between additions) If you find it’s not as thick as you’d like, try increasing the heat. You can also combine a tbsp or two of flour in a small dish with a bit of milk and pour the mixture into your pot. Whisk well so you don’t get lumps!

4. Remove 1-2 cups of the soup, making sure you get some mushrooms in there, and blend it with a blender (we use our Magic Bullet**) and then add it back into the pot. This distributes pureed mushrooms, onions and garlic throughout the rest of the soup but you still get whole mushroom pieces as well for those who like things chunky 🙂 If you don’t like chunks, puree the whole lot in a blender or with a hand-held immersion blender.

5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

ENJOY!

** If you use a magic bullet or closed-lid blender, be careful the heat doesn’t build up and cause the container to explode. When we use our magic bullet with hot liquids like soup, I will pure for a few seconds and then loosen the lid to let the steam hiss out. I close and repeat until I’m done blending. If you have a blender, most of them have lids with vents you can open.

Remove Stubborn Dirt and Grime with Two Common Household Items!

I’ll make this short and sweet: Baking Soda + Vinegar takes care of all most of your cleaning needs! I had just acquired a brand new (to me) $2000 hardwood dining table and chairs. My son had been doing a craft and had left a wet piece of red construction paper on the light-wood table top for about 20 minutes. By the time I found it, there was a red triangle stained into the surface of my new table! I was.so.upset. I tried all different kinds of cleaners, but it was stained into the table surface and nothing seemed to work. This is when my genius mom made a paste of baking soda and vinegar and lightly applied it in a gentle circular motion. It took the red stain right out and didn’t hurt the finish on the wood table! I was speechless.

As I was cleaning the kitchen the other day, I scrubbed down the front of my stove and fridge. When I got to the handles of the fridge and the stove I couldn’t seem to get off that dark, dirty residue built up from everyone’s hands over time. That’s when I remembered my mom’s table trick. Needless to say, it worked! Here’s the process:

You will need baking soda and standard white vinegar.
1. Start with a good amount of baking powder. (I used about 1/4-1/2 cup) Gradually add white vinegar. It will fizz a lot, but wait until the fizzing subsides. You may have to exercise extreme self control because it’s so fun to watch the fizz that it’s hard to stop pouring. Use your fingers to mix it together into a crumbly paste.

IMG_0019
2. Apply paste to grimy areas in a circular motion. If you are working on a durable surface, feel free to scrub more aggressively. Use your fingers to smush it in and don’t worry if lots of it crumbles out from under your fingers and falls on the floor. You can sweep up after! So long as you feel a good amount of grit under your fingers, you’ll know its doing it’s job. Apply more as you need and be liberal. Here is what my floor looked like after I was done:
IMG_0025

3. After you have scrubbed and you are starting to see the dirt come loose, use a clean damp cloth to wipe the surface clean and decide if it’s all come up or if you need to apply more. You may have to do it a few times, but the whole process (even with repeated applications) shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes from start to finish. I did my oven and fridge handles. Here is my oven handle:
IMG_0084
Voila!

Other uses:
– Sinks, tile and bathtubs– anywhere you would remove soap scum. (Use at your own discretion. If it’s a delicate surface, I take no responsibility if you ruin it!)
– Removes sticker residue when you are taking labels off containers or jars (works like a miracle!)
– Removes stains from hardwood and built up grime and dirt on surfaces

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

turkeywildriceOh my goodness. Sage. Where have you been all my life? This soup is absolutely hearty and delicious. It’s a warm hug on a cold day and it’s what’s on my dinner table tonight! Yum yum!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 cup uncooked wild rice blend (I used Lundberg Wild Blend Rice)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 7 tbsp butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 41/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp of each: rosemary, sage, marjoram
  • 6 chicken thighs or 2 large chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Cook rice according to directions on the package

2. Halfway through the cook time for the rice, in a separate large pot, melt 1 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrots and saute until slightly tender, about 4 minutes. Add garlic during last 30 seconds of sauteing.

3. Add chicken broth and spices.

4. Increase heat to medium-high and add chicken to pot, bringing mixture to a boil. Cover pot with lid and allow mixture to boil for 12-15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

5. Remove chicken to cutting board to cool for 5 minutes and then shred with two forks.

6. Meanwhile reduce heat to low and add cooked rice. Add shredded chicken to soup.

7. In a separate medium saucepan (you can clean out the rice pot), melt remaining 6 tbsp butter over medium heat.

8. Add flour and cook 1 1/2 minutes, whisking constantly. Then, while whisking, slowly pour milk into the butter/flour mixture. Cook the mixture while stirring until it thickens.

9. Add milk mixture to soup mixture in pot and cook about 5 minutes longer, or until the soup is thickened.

10. Stir in heavy cream and lemon zest and serve warm.

Christmas Cookies Series: Easy “Gingerbread” Cookies

gingerbread

My kids like gingerbread. Well, to be more accurate: They like “gingerbread”. I made the mistake of spending hours baking authentic gingerbread cookies last year only to discover that the kids hated them. Molasses, loads of ginger and cloves… I should have known just looking at the recipe.

I’ve doctored a traditional recipe to be both quick and lighter tasting. You’ll still get that beautiful gingerbread aroma without the bitter taste. Bake on!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2c butter, softened
  • 3/4c brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 4tsp maple syrup

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Combine flour and baking soda in a large bowl, stir in melted butter until it becomes the consistency of bread crumbs.

2. Stir in brown sugar and spices.

3. In a smaller dish, lightly beat egg with the maple syrup and add to the larger bowl, mixing all the ingredients until a lump of dough forms.

4. Wrap dough in plastic wrap or in a freezer bag and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

5. Roll out with rolling pin until 1/2cm think and cut into your favourite shapes.

Bake at 350 for 12-14 mins.

Baked Chicken Cacciatore

  • 1 small onion – quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic (or garlic powder)
  • 14oz diced tomatoes
  • 2/3c chicken broth
  • coconut oil
  • package of chicken thighs
  • butter
  • 1/3c flour
  • pinch oregano
  • parm cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
    Preheat oven to 375. In a blender, puree chopped onion, garlic, tomatoes and chicken broth. Set aside.In a medium shallow dish mix together flour with parm cheese, salt and pepper— all to taste. Dip chicken thighs in flour mixture until completely covered. Heat a good amount of coconut oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and sear the chicken. Turn a few times until both sides are browned.

    Once chicken is cooked, remove from pan and add in the tomato sauce mixture and scrape up any brown bits left over from the chicken— mix them in with the sauce. Add oregano Bring to a boil.

    Arrange chicken thighs in a large baking dish, give a small dust of salt and pepper for extra flavour. Once sauce is boiling, pour it over the chicken thighs and place baking dish in the oven uncovered and cook for 45 minutes until the sauce has reduced by about half.

    Cook spaghetti noodles and toss in a light coating of butter. Spoon pasta into dishes and top with chicken and a few scoops of sauce. Sprinkle of parm cheese optional!

    Yummmyyyyy!!!