Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Beef and Black Bean Chili

Recipe #48: http://www.canadianliving.com/food/quick_and_easy/beef_and_black_bean_chili.php

As recipes go, this one is pretty straight forward and easy if you don't mind all the chopping, draining, and other prep steps. I don't have a photo of my results just yet because my camera is suddenly acting strange. I'll post it later if I get a chance.

There were a few substitutions/modifications for my version of this recipe. I found only 1/2 lb of ground beef in the freezer so I thawed the additional 1/2 lb of ground pork that I found in there too. And by the way, 1 lb of meat as called for in this recipe is a LOT of meat at the end.... I couldn't find lime juice at the store so I skipped it altogether. I used canned corn and added an extra handful. I passed on the red pepper on principle since I don't like peppers. I only had dried coriander so I used 3 tbsp of it and I keep forgetting to serve myself the cheddar cheese on my chili.

I can tell I've been away from cooking for a while: my eyes keep streaming when I'm chopping onions. My immunity seems to have worn off while I was in New Zealand. I had to guesstimate how many baby carrots to chop to make up the 1 carrot I was supposed to be dicing, but I just used as many to make a slightly bigger pile than the celery. I'm learning not to be perfect.

Final result in my version is good! I had it for lunch today. It's got some pretty good flavour which is a stretch from my usual bland choices. Your guts will thank you for the fibre in the beans too :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Carnation Shepherd's Pie

Recipe #47: http://www.carnationmilk.ca/recipe-details.aspx?rid=974

Hallo again! I've returned to the kitchen, semi-reluctantly, after a prolonged absence mostly spent on the other side of the world. You should be proud of me; I ate goat cheese, edam cheese, curry, Tim Tams, and some weird kind of sandwich meat while I was gone. Not to mention the odd pieces of dirt and sandflies too.

So, back to Canada now, and back to the grind of post-vacation life. This means I need to cook for myself again. Back to the drawing board....and since it's spring, that means it's also time to use up all the crap in the deep freeze, cupboards, and shelves! I'm tired of being stared at by the same old ingredients.

I had what I thought was a smart-ass idea the other day, and I posted a Facebook status saying I was looking for recipes to use up ground beef and evaporated milk. "Surely", I chuckled to myself, "those two things NEVER belong together! Let's see if anyone else notices." But suddenly I did get a reaction - an unexpected one from my friend Donald who came up with Shepherd's Pie. To humour him (and myself), I opened the Carnation website and found a recipe that matched. Who knew? So I tried it...

I'm taking a new approach to grocery shopping these days. No longer am I going to buy in "stockpile" mode; instead, I will shop for what I need and use up stuff at home as much as I can. This means that since the recipe called for 1.5 lbs of ground beef and I'd only thawed about 1 lb, it's a bit lighter on the meat in my version. I added a bit more frozen vegetables to compensate, and I certainly have more than enough potato. Next time, I need to remember that I don't like peppers or lima beans when I'm shopping for frozen veggies. Blech!

Ah yes, the potato topping. Last time I made Shepherd's Pie, I had the bare minimum of topping. Not a problem this time! The only issues with the potatoes arose when I went to peel them and couldn't find my peeler. Admittedly, I couldn't really remember what it even looked like although I was 95% sure I actually owned one. I ended up cutting off the peel, but next time, I'll probably just wash them loads and leave the peel on. The colour is part of the appeal when I buy red potatoes.

After I'd cooked them to death, it was time to mash. By now, I'd found the peeler (now that I no longer needed it) and my eyes were no longer streaming from the onion, so I tried to figure out a way to smash a vegetable residing in a deep camping pot, knowing for an almost certain fact that I do not own a potato masher. I tried a couple of ideas, no go, but suddenly I was hit with a brilliant brain wave and ended up using my hand mixer to create some lovely smashed potato!

I left out most of the salt because I just don't need a ton of added salt in my life, and I also left out the red pepper because there were already gross peppers in the frozen vegetable mix. The ketchup was a bit of a gong show but seems to have been for the good. I used up what was left in the ketchup bottle, then I used up what was left in the BBQ sauce bottle, then I made up the remainder of the 1/3 cup called for with more BBQ sauce of unknown origin. I don't normally like BBQ sauce, but I figured this was a good way to not realize I'm eating it and it adds flavour.

My first dish to put into the oven was too big (I didn't have the required measurements so I had to improvise), but my second choice turned out well. Too bad I didn't know that first or I wouldn't have additional dishes to wash. Ah well, c'est la vie. It bubbled away for about 30 minutes and I had some today for lunch. I'd have to say it's pretty tasty although my version is a wee bit runny. I'm not exactly sure why, but I think it had something to do with the remainder of the can of evaporated milk, or maybe from the frozen vegetables thawing. Who cares, really? It's good enough to have again for lunch tomorrow.