Category: FoodBlog

Recipe – Mandy’s Macaroni Salad

With BBQ season upon us, I decided to ring in spring with one of my favourite BBQ add-ons (and the one I tend to bring to potlucks most often), my macaroni salad. Now throughout this post, let’s pretend the words macaroni and potato are entirely interchangable. I make the same recipe, both with macaroni or potatoes. However, this time, due to what I had around the house, I went with macaroni.

This recipe is amazing for anyone, because it’s entirely modifiable to whatever you prefer. Don’t like red peppers? No prob, use green peppers. Maybe you hate all peppers in general, well then, leave them out. Have carrots instead of celery, that’s fine too. No fresh parsley, use dried or none at all. I can go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. You can use whatever you have in the fridge, it doesn’t matter.

This also applies to the dressing. Don’t like hot sauce, don’t use it. Hate mustard, leave that out too. Change up the herbs and spices to ones you really like and omit the ones you don’t. The only thing you pretty much need for the dressing is mayonnaise, but if you don’t like mayo, why not do an oil and vinegar dressing? It all comes back to use whatever you want.

You’ll notice there are no amounts in this recipe… I just throw stuff in, for both the salad and the dressing. I suppose I could tell you what’s in this batch, but the salads and dressings I make are never the same. I reiterate once again, it does not matter what you use. Use your judgement, obviously you won’t add 8 cups of mayo to 1 cup of macaroni… At least I hope you won’t. Taste as you go and adjust seasonings as necessary. Go with your gut, it’s where the macaroni salad is heading anyways. 😉

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Mandy’s Macaroni Salad Ingredients:

Macaroni, cooked in salted water and cooled (or potatoes, cooked, cooled and diced)

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Parsley, chopped
Red Onion, small dice
Celery, small dice
Red Pepper, small dice
Shallot, minced
Hard-boiled eggs, chopped
Dill Pickles, small dice
Olives, sliced

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Dressing Ingredients:

Mayonnaise
Yellow Mustard
Dijon Mustard
Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
Pickle Juice
Olive Juice
Garlic Powder
Basil
Celery Salt
Herbes de Provence
Salt & Pepper

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Procedure:

1 – Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl. (My ratio of macaroni to other stuff is about 50/50, but this is how I like it.) Set aside.

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2 – Combine all dressing ingredients in a smaller bowl. I use the pickle/olive juice to thin out the mayo. (Adding a tart flavour as well as saving me on added calories.) If you wanted to make your salad way more colourful, substitute the pickle and olive juices for pickled beet liquid for a bright pink dressing.

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3 – Whisk this ingredients until smooth and adjust seasonings. I used a different dill pickle brand this time, which was far more vinegary than my usual one, so I added about a tablespoon of white sugar to balance the flavours. Too watery? Add more mayo. Not spicy enough? Add more Frank’s. I like mine to be a salad dressing consistency, tangy and sweet, with a tiny bit of heat on the finish.

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4 – Combine the dressing with the salad and mix until thoroughly coated. Taste to ensure the seasoning are right and enjoy!

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*The salad can also be refrigerated for a later date, which I tend to do. This allows the flavours to meld together much better, but you’ll notice the macaroni soaks up a lot of the dressing. You can either throw together another small batch of dressing or just use some mayo or a bit of pickle juice to moisten the salad.

ENJOY!

Mandy De Geit
Chef-In-Training
“If food was meditation, we’d chant Om-Nom-Nom.”

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Recipe: Mandy’s Three Meat Chilli

I’m a fan of one pot meals, from stews to soups to chilli, I’ve made them all. I tend to overdo them at times, size wise anyways. I always set out to make a normal sized chilli, but then I end up with enough to feed an army. While this isn’t always (if ever) a bad thing, as long as you have room in your fridge or friends to feed it. The nice thing about chilli is that they are pretty much fool proof. You can add or remove whatever you want.

Here’s the recipe for the most recent chilli I made. This recipe will turn out a vat of it, so if you’re looking for not-so-much chilli, definitely cut down the recipe.

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Mandy’s Three Meat Chilli

Ingredients:

3 hot Italian sausages (casings removed)

1 lb of ground pork

1 kg of cubed beef

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2 yellow onions diced

5 celery stalks

2 green peppers

1 light green Hungarian pepper

4 jalapenos (Seeds removed but reserved in a small bowl)

12 large mushrooms

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4 cans of tomatoes

1 can of tomato paste

2 cans of kidney beans (or the same amount in dried beans that have been soaked and cooked)

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1½ tbsp ground coriander

1½  tbsp cumin + 1 tsp

1 tbsp dried cilantro flakes

2 tbsp oregano + 1 tsp

2 tsp pure chipotle powder

4 tbsp brown sugar

½ tbsp. salt + 1 tsp

1 tbsp chili powder

3 tbsp cocoa + 1 tbsp

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1 – Start by browning the meat, I used three different pans and did them in small batches to make sure get some nice searing on the meats. (I broke the sausage meat into “balls” so you could differentiate between the meats. I wasn’t sure if it would hold up during the simmering, but it did quite well.)

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2 – While the meat is browning, dice all the vegetables into smallish pieces. (I sauteed the mushrooms, but I assume you don’t have to do this.)

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3 – Seed and mince the jalapenos. I use gloves for this, to prevent burning. Reserve the seeds in a small bowl.

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4 – Sautee the vegetables in the bottom of your chilli pot in a few tablespoons of olive oil and cook until the vegetables are soft.

5 – Add the first round of seasonings and cook for a few minutes. (You’ll notice the ingredient list for the seasoning is split into two for a few of the ingredients, I like to add more seasoning after the chilli has been on for awhile. The “+ whatever measurement” is what I added after the chilli had been on for a few hours.)

6 – Add the meat to the mixture.

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6 – Add all other ingredients except for extra spices (kidney beans, tomatoes and paste) and allow to simmer uncovered for a few hours. Stir frequently.

7 – Add the second round of seasonings, including some of the reserved jalapeno seeds. (I figure I used about a half teaspoon of them.)

8 – Simmer for another hour or so, until desired consistency is reached.

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9 – Spoon into bowl and top with some cheese of some sort and enjoy.

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This chilli turned out excellent, the beef cubes were fall apart tender, resulting in mostly just shredded beef floating amongst the myriad of other ingredients. Between the cocoa and the chipotle powder, there was an amazing  depth of flavour. I did add a little heat to it, by adding some of the reserved seeds to the mix, but I think it turned out just right. This chilli froze extremely well and tasted just as good, if not better, reheated.

I’ll definitely be making this recipe (or some variation of it) again.

Chef-In-Training Mandy 😀

Good Eats: Lemon/Basil Roast Chicken with Root Veg

Ah chicken, the ultimate food. It goes with almost anything, aside from dessert (there are some lines I just won’t cross), and there’s nothing I love more than roasting a whole chicken. I used to shy away, thinking it was difficult to get it right, but it really isn’t. I’ve accumulated a few tricks up my sleeve over the course of learning how to rock the roast chicken and I’d be more than happy to share a few of them with you.

But Mandy, why the hell would I not just buy chicken breasts, they come pre-skinned, pre-boned and well it’s just chicken…

FLAVOUR! You’re missing out on all the goodness that comes from the skin and bones. You also lose out on the ability to make stock, which I love doing with my leftover carcasses. (If you aren’t making stock just yet, toss all the extras in a large freezer bag and save it for when you have time.) I personally find making a roast chicken way easier than cooking chicken breasts, you prep it, toss it in the oven and walk away for an hour. Good for those days when you have things to do around the house.

Here’s what I ended up doing with the chicken.

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BRINING!!! Rarely do I make poultry without letting it soak in a bath of spices, salt and sugar. This process makes the meat unbelievably moist and tender. I normally let my chickens soak in a water bath overnight in the fridge… I’ve also parked the chicken in brine from frozen, which serves dual purposes. *(We’ve also had great luck brining turkeys…)

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STUFFING!!! Not with carb filled stuffing, but with flavour. I usually fill the cavities of the poultry with citrus, onion and herbs. This time was lemon and basil. Also, taking the time to jam whatever you’re using under the skin, leaves for a beautifully finished product.

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ROASTING!!! One pot wonders are always a good thing. The veg on the bottom will be flavoured by the chicken drippings, and well, there’s less pots and pans to wash. The veggies also keep the chicken elevated, to allow for better air circulation.

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Et voila! This is what we ended up with. Beautifully roasted chicken, ready to be consumed. 😀

Noms!
Chef-In-Training Mandy

Recipe: Blueberry Peach Bread

Thanks to Mom and Dad, being the avid blueberry pickers they are, my freezer is filled with bags of the yummy, little, purple tastebombs. I put them on cereal, in my yogurt, have made blueberry scones and blueberry banana bread, but still the berries are taking over my freezer. Having a full freezer is a good thing at times, how else am I supposed to decide what to eat for dinner? The game I play now is whatever the freezer spits out (usually smashing onto my toes) is the winner.

Yes, I allow the freezer to decide what I eat.

Upon further inspection of the freezer, (as I was attempting to make room for the large hunk of beef the boy brought home from Costco) I also found I had a surplus of peaches. I wouldn’t mind the overages of frozen fruit and berries, if it weren’t for the fact that I only have a tiny freezer at the moment. While a new freezer is on my list of things to buy before I start school in January,  I wonder how will I choose what to eat if everything has a place and nothing is being rejected by the cooling box.

I googled blueberries and peaches, which is normally the way I find new recipes to try. Just punch in the ingredients you have and go from there. While the boy and I are trying to avoid carbs, it’s not really helping that I keep baking stuff that needs to be eaten. Such as this blueberry/peach bread, which turned out really moist and tasty.

Blueberry Peach Bread

Ingredients

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of coconut oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup blueberries
1 cup peeled and diced peaches (about 3 peaches)
1/2 cup Non-fat greek yogurt
Zest of one lime

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Instructions

1 – Pre-heat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.

2 – In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.

3 – Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each egg is added.

4 – Add in the vanilla and lime zest and mix well.

5 – Add in the greek yogurt and mix until well combined.

6 – Gently fold in the blueberries and peaches.

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7 – Put batter in greased bread pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes,  until the top is lightly browned or toothpick inserted comes out clean.

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8 – Cool before slicing.

*I cut the peaches a little too large for this bread, so there were holes in the bottom when I flipped it out of the pan, but it still tasted wonderful. The batter is a cross between a muffin and a cake batter, dense, soft and super yum. I’m sure it’s not that great for me, specially while trying to be all low-carby, but it makes for a great dessert. I will definitely be making this bread again.

Chef-In-Training Mandy 😀

Recipe: Thai Chilli and Old Cheddar Bread

This is my second attempt at making bread, and surprisingly, they’ve both turned out quite well. Now, I have an issue with bread… I am a breadophile. If there’s bread in the house, it’s not safe from my snacking. I have found a way around this, and that’s keeping it in the freezer. Only cause then I have to think of bread in advance and it can’t be a last minute snack idea. I’m not one for buying bread from the store, but I really enjoy making it. My first attempt at bread was a simple white bread, I halved the recipe and gave one of the small-ish loaves to my best friend. *(Along with a jar of the Guinness jelly.)

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I did well on the white bread, and I had a ton of extra Thai chillies and cheese, so I opted to make this recipe.

Thai Chilli and Old Cheddar Bread

  • 2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 10 minced (and seeded) thai green chilies
  • 2 tbsp and 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup warm water (not too hot, or you’ll kill the yeasties)
  • 2 tsps yeast
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

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1 – In a very large bowl, combine flour, cheese, jalapenos, 2 tbsp sugar and the salt; mix well.

2 – In a separate bowl (I used a measuring cup), combine the water, yeast and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Let sit about 10 minutes; stir until all yeast is dissolved.

3 – Add the oil to the liquid mixture, stirring . Add half of the liquid mixture to the flour mixture. Mix with hands to moisten flour as much as possible. Add remaining liquid mixture to dough and mix until flour is thoroughly incorporated. (I had to add more water to bring it all together, but it didn’t affect the bread at all.)

4 – Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand until smooth and elastic to the touch, about 15 minutes, gradually adding only enough additional flour to keep dough from sticking.

5 – Place in a large greased bowl and invert dough so top is greased; cover with a dry towel.

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6 – Let stand in a warm place (90 – 100F) until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch down dough. (I gave it a few more kneads here.)

7 – Form dough into a ball, then stretch out dough with both hands and tuck edges under to form a smooth surface. Pop any large air bubbles by pinching them. Form into a loaf. Place in a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan. Cover with towel again and allow to rise until almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. (I waited 45 minutes)

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8 – I sliced the top of the bread (not sure if it’s needed or not) and I added an egg wash (1 egg beat with a little water) to the top of the bread and sprinkled more grated cheese on top. (The egg wash isn’t in the photo, I decided to add it afterwards. I brushed off all the cheese, egg washed it and reapplied the cheese.)

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9 – Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) until dark brown and done, about 1 hour, rotating the pans after 25 minutes for more even browning. Remove from pan as soon as bread will easily lift out, after about 5 to 10 minutes.

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10 – Let cool about 1 hour before slicing.

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It turned out pretty good. It’s a tolerable heat, so if you’re looking for a severe burn or something of the sort, I’d up the chillies considerably. I’d also consider adding more cheese to the dough itself, as most of the cheddar seemed to disappear with the kneading. I will definitely be making this bread again. 😀

Chef-In-Training Mandy

Recipe: Guinness Jelly

I stumbled across the recipe for Guinness jelly while I was flitting around on the internet. For the past week, I’ve called it Guinness Jelly, Guinness Jam, Guinness Bread Stuff but all in all, it should just be called Awesomeness on bread. To shed a little light on what this substance might be classified as, I’ve taken the liberty to search out the definitions of certain bread spreads.

Jam: A sweet spread or preserve made from fruit and sugar boiled to a thick consistency

Jelly: A sweet, clear, semisolid, somewhat elastic spread or preserve made from fruit juice and sugar boiled to a thick consistency.

Preserves: Food made with fruit preserved in sugar, such as jam or marmalade.

Compotes:  Fruit preserved or cooked in syrup or a dish consisting of fruit salad or stewed fruit.

(I figure it didn’t really fall into any of those, so then I googled “gel” and “gelée”.)

Gelée: Any gelled suspension made for culinary purposes.

TA-DA!!! It’s a Guinness Gelée.

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(Gelée is also the french word for Jelly, so there you have it, after all those definitions, we’re back to Guinness Jelly.) 😉

I wasn’t sure how it would taste, so I waited until I had the chance to try it before posting the recipe. Last night, the boy and I tried it out with the homemade white bread I baked during the day and some Philadelphia cream cheese. Holy crap, it’s amazing. The tang of the cream cheese coupled with the sweet, maltiness of the Guinness Jam was an awesome taste experience.

It’s actually really easy to make, since there’s only three ingredients and using the agar agar as the gelling agent also makes it a very forgiving jam. The first time I made it, it hadn’t set the next morning, so I dumped it all back into the pot, added more agar agar and boiled it out again. I did lose most of the “head” but at least I didn’t have to use another beer. *(Score one for me!)

Agar agar is a seaweed and comes in different forms, flakes, powder and strands. I used the powder form for this recipe. I found it at an Asian grocery store, and paid $1 for the package.

Here’s the recipe…

Guinness Gelée aka Guinness Jelly

1 can of Guinness (440ml)
1 cup of White Sugar
1/2 tsp of Agar Agar powder

1 – Add the beer and sugar to a saucepan. (Make sure it’s a larger saucepan, as the carbonation will cause the liquid to expand when it boils.) Turn on med-high heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Once sugar is dissolved, turn off the heat.

2 – Sprinkle the agar agar on to the liquid and let it absorb into the hot liquid. Give it 5 minutes or so.

3 – Turn on med-high heat and bring mixture to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, this will activate the agar agar.

4 – Pour Guinness Jelly into jars and let cool, then place in fridge until set. (I let mine sit overnight.)

5 – Put it on bread and eat it. 😀

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*As mentioned above, it goes awesome with cream cheese. I can also see it pairing very well with cheeses, such as Brie or Cheddar. I will be using it in place of a compote for the next cheese plate I set out.

Bon Appétit
Chef-In-Training Mandy

Recipe: Tomatoes, Tomatillos and First Aid

My best friend Natasha dropped off the weekly assortment of vegetables. I had asked her for more tomatoes, knowing I’d be making salsa and spaghetti sauce soon, and she included a ton of extras. She also mentioned added something to the box for my “mystery challenges”… I was intrigued and asked her what it was. She said she’d included tomatillos. They are the ones on the right, still in their husks.

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The tomatoes were easy, I ended up making a boatload of spaghetti sauce and a red tomato salsa, but I had no idea what to make with the tomatillos.

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Enter my friend, Google.

One of the first ones I found included green olives, which was another staple that I seem to have an abundance of… Rather than searching through a ton of recipes, I went with the first one. After a few Mandy modifications, here’s what I ended up with.

Roasted Tomatillos and Green Olive Salsa (or just Salsa Verde)
1 kg tomatillos, husked
2 garlic cloves minced
1 jalapeno pepper minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup green olives minced
1/2 red onion minced
1 cup cilantro
1 lime, juiced
zest of half a lime
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 – Heat oven to 475 degrees.
2 – Spread tomatillos, garlic cloves and jalapeno on baking sheet and coat evenly with oil.
3 – Roast for 15 minutes or until tomatillos are browned and blistered.
4 – Let cool and chop finely, add all ingredients into a bowl and let flavours meld.
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I really like this. It’s a little more “gelled” than the red salsa I made, which I actually like. As for what it tastes like, the flavour is amazing. I ended up adding onion, which wasn’t in the original recipe and changed up the pepper requirements. This salsa isn’t hot at all, so even those who are afraid of jalapenos can breathe easy. (Make sure you remove the seeds and veins from the pepper, unless you like heat.)
As for the first aid in the title, after my foray in the kitchen today, I ended up with two burns and three cuts. None of which were from the salsa experiments. I burned myself on the dutch oven I was using as a slow cooker for chicken tacos. (I’m not used to having a pot where I can’t touch the handles or the lid… Note to self, stop being an idiot.)
The cuts were from my attempt at boning two whole chickens, which I didn’t do too bad at, aside from the minor blood letting I imparted upon myself. We (the boy and I) had the salsas with the chicken tacos and I approve of each of them. (Between you and I, since the salsas can’t hear me from the fridge, the tomatillo one is my favourite.)
Lesson of today, don’t shy away from something you’ve never cooked, it just might be one of the best things ever!Slightly cooked and somewhat bleeding Chef-In-Training Mandy