Easy Hermit Cookies

By:  Julie

Serves:  Makes 3 dozen cookies

Time:  10min mixing, 12 min baking.

My grandmother made hermit cookies that were one of my favourite treats.  When I think of them, I remember the sound of the screen door on the porch, the texture of the carpet under my bare feet, and the way the smell of raisins and spice hit you when you opened the door into the house.  She would be standing there in a crazy-patterened house-dress, one fist on her hip, stirring something and humming under her breath.  If you were really lucky she would be singing.  I’m shocked to say that these are actually better than hers, (which were almost sort of muffiny-fat dense cookies).  There is no dough- chilling involved, just mix and bake!  Perfect for homemade in a hurry.

I should tell you that I love raisins. I probably put them in more things than I should. Even if you’re not a raisin cheerleader like I am, I encourage you to try these.  The dough is sweet so the walnuts are important to provide balance, salt too.  Watch these carefully –  with the addition of the spices it’s hard to tell when the edges start to brown.  You want them to to be browned around the edges and slightly coloured on top.  If you over-bake them they will still be delicious… just dunk them in some milk!

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You Will Need:

  • 1 cup of butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinammon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 cups of raisins
  • 1 cup walnuts – toasted and chopped

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Cream the butter with the sugar and beat on high for 2-3 min.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating in between.  Add the vanilla and beat for 2 min.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour with the salt, baking soda and spices.  Add to the cookie mixture a third at a time, beating well in between.  Add the raisins and the nuts and mix with a wooden spoon until combined.

Using a cookie scoop is a bit challenging since the dough is so fluffy.  You want 1 inch balls of dough dropped onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  This makes the perfect size cookie. Don’t flatten them out, they will settle as they bake.

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Bake at 375F for 9-12 minutes.  See that gaping hole below where once there was a cookie? I may have stuffed one in my mouth while they were still 375F, possibly burning the roof of my mouth and impairing my ability to taste for the rest of the day.

Worth It.

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Steak and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

By Corinne

I love goat cheese and there is a generous amount of it on this salad – do feel free to cut back to a more reasonable amount. There is a pub in town that serves a delicious goat cheese and steak salad that was definitely my inspiration for this. Making it at home means I can add more cheese and make the dressing exactly how I want it.

Serves: 4 

Time: about 25 minutes – but it depends on how long you let the steaks come to room temperature and how long you let them rest for at the end

You will need:

  • 3 strip loin steaks (you can do one per person if they are particularly small or if you are very hungry – you can also do 2 steaks if you are looking to cut back on the meat portion)
  • Montreal steak spice
  • Worcestershire sauce (gluten free if you use a gf worcestershire – alternatively use balsamic here)
  • 10 oz (284g) salad greens (I used “tender ruby reds”, but spring mix or romaine work as well)
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 small red onion, VERY thinly sliced
  • a handful of cherry tomatoes if desired. Sometimes I feel them, sometimes I don’t.
  • 250g goat cheese (if you can find it, try ‘Celebrity’ brand – it’s one of the best ones I’ve found in a grocery store. If you live in Thunder Bay, you can find it at Maltese)

For the dressing

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar *
  • 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced or pressed
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • pinch of salt
  • few grinds of fresh pepper

*as I’ve mentioned in other posts, I tend to prefer my dressings more on the vinegar side. The classic oil/vinegar ratio is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil – feel free to adjust this to taste.

Sprinkle steaks liberally with Montreal steak spice and Worcestershire sauce. Allow to come to room temperature – at least 30 minutes, but 45 if you have time.

Whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside.

Slice peppers and onions and tomatoes if using. Divide salad greens among plates, distribute onions and peppers on top of greens and sprinkle with goat cheese. I find raw onion can be quite strong. Slice it very thin, as thin as you possibly can. Give it a taste, the amount  you use is going to depend very much on the strength of the particular onion.

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Grilling the steaks – preheat bbq for 5-10 minutes. Sear steaks- place on grill for 1 minute, close the lid. Flip and place on the other side for 1 minute. Flip again and cook for 10-15 minutes flipping half way through, depending on desired doneness. If you haven’t tried it,  you should start trying the touch test for doneness.  It’s a more reliable test than purely timing, and once you have it down you’re golden. If you have a meat thermometer, you can use that, but it requires you poking the steaks and losing potential juiciness. Allow steaks to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Divide greens, vegetables and goat cheese between 4 plates. Thinly slice steak and place on salad. Divide dressing between 4 plates. If desired, add a few more chunks of goat cheese on top of the steaks.

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Creamy Braised Pork Chops

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By Corinne

I don’t have any sort of clever story to tell about these. Suffice to say that the sauce is savory and creamy and the chops end up so tender you can cut them with your fork. You should make them because they are easy and delicious and make amazing leftovers for lunch the next day.

You will need:

  • 4 pork chops (boneless, or bone in, whatever your preference
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • several generous grinds of fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp butter + 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 onion finely minced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced or pressed
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tbsp grainy dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp smooth dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used chardonnay)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk

Preheat oven 350F

Mix together paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Apply to pork chops, ensuring you use it all. In a large, preferably cast iron, but otherwise in an oven safe pan, heat 1/2 tbsp of butter and 1/2 tsp of canola. When melted and bubbly, add pork chops to pan, allowing about 3 minutes for each side until browned- they will finish cooking in the oven.

Remove pork chops from pan and add the other 1/2 tbsp of butter. Add minced onion to pan and stirring for about 2 minutes until slightly softened. It should pick up quite a bit of colour. Add the 1/2 cup of wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits. Then add the lemon zest and juice, minced garlic, thyme, mustards and milk. Whisk sauce together and return pork chops to pan. Cover pan tightly with foil and place in preheated oven.

Cook in oven for 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on the thickness of your pork chops. If you are braising for more than 1 hour, at the 1 hour mark remove from oven and flip them over if they are not covered by the braising liquid. If you plan on leaving them in for longer, you may want to add some additional water/wine/or stock as liquid.

The sauce is delicious over rice and goes well with just about any vegetable you enjoy.

Easy Pizza Sauce

By: Julie

Time:  10 min

Serves:  Enough sauce for 3 medium pizzas

I have a love affair with pizza but I’m getting picky in my old age.  If I have the time, I like to make it myself from scratch.  You can buy canned pizza sauce in the store and it will mimic anything you receive in a 2 for 1 pizza shack, or you can easily make something else that will taste fresh and delicious every time.  There are several ways to make pizza sauce but this one is easy, takes minutes, and is delicious.  The San Marzano tomatoes are important here, but if you can’t find them use plum tomatoes instead.

You Will Need:

  • 1 can of San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt (or regular table salt)
  • 1/4 tsp of oregano or basil
  • 1/4 tsp of chile flakes (optional)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic

Drain the tomatoes using a strainer.  I like to let them sit while the oven is preheating to make sure they are drained well – you don’t want watery sauce.  Once drained, toss all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.

Divide into thirds and freeze the 2 potions.  Spread the last portion on your pizza.  This is a generous portion, I like lots of sauce.  If you don’t, just use less and make 4 portions.

Top your pizza with your favorite ingredients, enjoy!

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Anytime Turkey And Stuffing

By Julie

Time: 90 min

Serves:  6-8 (Or 2 with lots of leftovers)

I love turkey and stuffing so much that sometimes I can’t wait until a major holiday to eat it… but sadly, let’s face it, it’s a lot of work.  Until now.  After a big holiday you will notice all those leftover turkeys will appear in the poultry section, already butchered for you in lovely portions at a reduced price.   I usually grab a couple of breasts, and some drumsticks (that I use for turkey wraps).  You can roast a turkey breast in about an hour, depending on size, and it will taste no different than the one you made a few weeks earlier that was attached to the rest of the bird.

Stuffing can be as easy or as complicated as you want. This one uses day old irish soda bread, but you can use whatever you have, as long as it’s dry. Save the many-ingredient-lots-of-chopping version for your special occasions and make this one anytime.

You Will Need 

For The Turkey

  • 1 turkey breast, about 2 lbs
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp of dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp of poultry seasoning
  • salt and pepper

For The Stuffing

  • 2 small or 1 large sweet potato, cubed in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 6 cups of day old bread, cubed
  • 1-2 cups of reduced sodium chicken broth, depending on what kind of bread you are using
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp of olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning

 

Prepare The Turkey

Preheat the oven to 350F. The turkey breast should be removed from the fridge 30 min before cooking if you have the chance.  If not, it may take longer to cook the center and the breast might be dry.  Pat the skin dry, and rub it with the butter and seasonings.  Place in a roasting pan on a rack and pop it in the oven.  Roast for an hour and check the temperature.  It should read 178 in thickest part of the breast meat (make sure you are not touching a bone).  Normally for a full sized turkey I would remove it at 170 and let it rest because it will continue cooking, bringing it up a further 10 degrees to the desired 180.  A single breast will not continue to cook very much so it needs to be close to temp before you let it rest.  Let it rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.

Prepare The Stuffing

Heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add the sweet potatoes and cook until they are softened and browned.  Remove from pan.  Add remaining olive oil and butter and reduce heat to medium.  Add onions and celery and cook, stirring often, until softened and onion is translucent.  You may be tempted to do the sweet potatoes and the onions together, but I find that the sweet potato soaks up all the oil and the onions burn.  Add the sweet potatoes back in, the broth, and the spices.  Stir until combined and add the bread, mixing well until you see no dry spots.  I used Irish Soda Bread for my stuffing and it’s very dense.  Because of this I needed more liquid.  If you are using a lighter bread like french bread, you will need less broth or you will end up with soggy stuffing.  There should be a small amount of liquid left in the bottom of the pot after you have stirred the bread in.  If it’s dry, add some more. If there is a quarter inch or more, crank up the heat and evaporate it off on the stove top before putting it in the oven.  Bake covered for 40 min.  If your turkey is taking a little longer than expected, just pull it out of the oven and leave it covered.  Fluff with a fork before serving.

I serve this with a simple salad and cranberry sauce.  This will easily get you to your next big holiday meal without all the fuss and minimal effort.  Who doesn’t love that?

 

Slow Cooker Ribs

By Corinne

The biggest problem I’ve had with making ribs in the slow cooker is that they end up so tender they fall apart and you can’t even pick them up without them slipping off the bones. Now, that’s awesome in one way, but it means that they don’t have the crispy bbq bark goodness you get from cooking them on the bbq or in the oven. This method combines the best of both worlds. Ribs are dry rubbed and cooked in the slow cooker for no longer than 6 hours on low, then finished on the bbq or in the oven. They are incredibly tender, and still have the crisped goodness from finishing them under high heat.

You will need:

  • 1 rack of ribs, cut into 3-4 bone sections
  • your favourite bbq sauce for finishing

Dry rub:

  • 1 tbsp paprika (smoked, sweet or hot, whatever your preference)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder

Combine all ingredients for dry rub. Sprinkle generously over ribs- I usually use all the rub for one large rack of ribs.

Stand ribs up on slow cooker so they are not all laying on top of one another. Cook on low for 5-6 hours, but no longer than 6 hours. If you cook them too long you will have difficulty finishing them in the oven or on the bbq as they will easily fall apart.

Remove ribs from slow cooker. If finishing the ribs on the bbq, heat grill to medium heat and generously slather with your favourite bbq sauce, basting ribs a few times on each side over direct heat. I always think they look prettier when they’ve been finished on the bbq, but it was -25C the night I made these so this time I did it in the oven.

To finish in the oven, place ribs on a cookie sheet or baking stone. If using a cookie sheet, you may wish to cover with tinfoil to aid in clean up. Baste ribs generously on both sides and place under broil. Watch carefully, flipping and basting about every 2-3 minutes until both sides have been crisped up a bit.

Enjoy!

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