Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Montreal Steak Spice Mix

One of the things I love about Canadians is that we consider anything warmer than -10 degrees to be 'grilling weather'. While people in warmer countries are complaining about a dusting of snow like it's a blizzard we're standing outside by our BBQ's with our jackets unzipped talking about how balmy it's been when the temperature hovers around freezing.

The past few weeks have had a lot of 'balmy' days, and on one of them I took advantage and stomped out back to fire up the grill for some delicious BBQ steak. And what's a juicy steak without....

Montreal Steak Spice Mix

1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 tablespoon sea salt
1.5 teaspoons dried garlic flakes
1.5 teaspoons coriander seeds
1.5 teaspoons dill seeds
1.5 teaspoons red chili flakes

Pour the mix into an empty pepper grinder.

Grill your delicious steak(s) to perfection.

Grind the desired amount of mix on top of your steaks and enjoy!

We ate our steaks the other night with steamed veggies and my bacon and chive roasted potatoes.

I've eaten (and enjoyed) the pre-made Montreal steak seasoning from the grocery store and Bulk Barn, but they don't even come CLOSE to tasting as good as this homemade fresh ground variety. I have never tested anything so delicious. So good in fact, we're having steak again tonight!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Japanese Tempura Batter Mix

A friend once told me that every culture has a deep fried specialty and even the healthiest cuisine- Japanese, is no exception with their fabulous tempura battered snacks. I first tried out this mix for guests on Christmas eve but it was too hectic that night to properly photograph it for the blog. I also wanted to make it thicker so it would taste perfect. I finally tried it out again the other night.

Japanese Tempura Batter Mix

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

What else you'll need

2/3 cup ice cold water

Measure out the water into a bowl and pop it into the freezer to chill while you assemble the mix. Once this mix is ready pour in the ice water and stir until you have a thick, lumpy paste. Make sure the batter is used right away or you'll need to chill it. You can batter anything you want with it- Shrimp, fish, mussels, broccoli, zucchini, carrots... I used it to batter 1 pound of large shrimp and a few spears of broccoli for fun.

Dip each piece of food in the batter until it's thickly coated and then fry immediately, flipping once.

Lay the food on a paper towel to drain any excess oil before serving.

I served the shrimp with steamed broccoli and teriyaki rice and noodles (another new mix coming soon!). This batch was just perfect and was gobbled up accordingly.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bacon and Chive Roasted Potato Seasoning Mix

I've had the luxury of grocery shopping on my own lately, which means being able to slow down my cart long enough to actually look at the things on the shelves. I used to have to browse packaged mixes online, but now I can actually pick up the packages and look closely at the ingredients and wonder if I can mix it up...

This weekend I noticed a mix for bacon and chive roasted potato seasoning. It looked delicious, but like most of them was full of chemicals. I know from experience that the chemicals don't bring taste, they add shelf life so they can travel far and sit around in a store for months or even years. Something we don't need to worry about when we mix it up.

I knew I could nail it... and I did...

Bacon and Chive Roasted Potato Seasoning Mix (single use)

1 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon bacon bits
1 teaspoon chives
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

What else you'll need

4 medium sized potatoes, sliced
2 tablespoons oil

Slice potatoes (Peeling is optional) and toss in oil. I use a mixing bowl with a lid to toss them in oil. Add mix and toss again until evenly coated.

Lay the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes until they start to look golden brown, flipping once if possible.

These were so good that the 3 of us were fighting like a pack of wild dogs over them at dinner tonight, and the 4th member of the family was kicking happily in my belly when I ate them. I served them with BBQ steak and steamed veggies. I'll be making them again soon for sure.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Butter Herb Noodle Mix

Years ago I had a male roommate brave enough to live with 3 women and every night he would watch Babylon 5 and eat a packet of Sidekicks (then called Lipton 'Noodles and Sauce') right out of the pot he cooked it in. Now that was fine dining!

I though they were disgusting at the time, but years later a friend made one as a side dish with dinner and I had to admit it was pretty tasty. I took a peek at them in the grocery store but decided against buying any- the chemicals were terrible! I experimented with some homemade versions and recently I came up with this: a copycat version of the popular Sidekicks Butter Herb Noodles...

Butter Herb Noodles Mix (single use)

2 tablespoons powdered milk (optional)
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
pinch pepper

The powdered milk is optional. It makes for creamier mix, but I find it tastes better without it. I discovered this because the first batch exploded when I tried to cook it in the microwave so I wasn't sure it was properly seasoned (it ended up being delicious) so I needed to make another batch. But I also realized my poor lactose intolerant stomach wasn't going to handle any more milk in one meal so I gave it a try without and found... perfection!!!

What else you'll need

2 servings uncooked fettuccine noodles broken in half
2 cups water
2 tablespoons butter

It's hard to measure out long noodles so I just held a bunch in my hand and formed a bunch about the size of a quarter, then snapped them in half.

You could do a complete mix with noodles included like you buy at the store, but then you would have to separate each batch in its own container and that just seems like extra work and storage space. It's better to just add the noodles each time and have a batch of seasoning mix to throw in.

In a saucepan bring the water to a boil, then add the noodles and mix and stir well. Add butter and continue stirring as they simmer until the noodles are tender and the sauce thickens.

I served the noodles alongside some honey mustard lemon baked sausages and steamed mixed veggies. Usually when I make a side dish there are enough leftovers for lunch the next day, but despite making 2 batches of these not a single noodle saw morning. I think you can guess how good they were from that alone.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Crispy baked pork chop coating mix

What is it with stomach flu and Valentine's Day in this house? I guess it's because February is the peak season, but still the timing is terrible. Last year I was just getting over it and this year my daughter came down with it this morning. It really makes cooking a romantic meal unappealing.

I had it all planned for weeks- heart shaped cupcakes with a Mix It Up cake mix, and.... pork chops! How are pork chops romantic? They are because I can't stand them, and they are one of my husband's favorite foods. So as a gesture of my love I make them to make him happy. THAT is romance (at least to a man it is).

The cupcakes never made it, today was hard enough. But a man needs to eat, so I ventured an attempt at the pork chops. I figured the best way to make them was with some sort of Shake and Bake style mix. That way they could bake while I finished bleaching my house.

Crispy Baked Pork Chop Coating Mix (single use)

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1/4 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

What else you'll need

4-6 pork chops
1 egg beaten

Coat each piece of pork chop in egg and then shake in a bag with the mix until fully coated. I both skipped the egg as usual (so less batter stuck) and used a lidded bowl to shake instead of a bag, which in my opinion works better.

Lay coated chops on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees F for an average of 45 minutes until pork chops are cooked all the way through (cooking times will vary depending on thickness).

I served my pork chops with baked potatoes and steamed baby carrots, his two favorite sides. I tasted a bite, and yes the seasoning was good. But I think I'm having cereal for dinner...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fish and Chip Batter Mix

Many years ago, back when we had no money, yet no responsibilities either, my husband and I drove out to Nova Scotia to camp and hike on the Cabot Trail. It was an amazing place and an amazing time and one day along the way we stopped in a little restaurant for lunch. It was there that I had my first taste of fish and chips.

Blame a childhood of picky eating, but up until recently, I had refused to touch fish. But in spirit of the local cuisine, and starving from all the exercise, I ended up trying this famous dish and was pleasantly surprised. It was so crispy! So filling! So delicious with a slice of lemon wedge. There was nothing fishy about it.

Of course, when you first taste a food in its optimal setting (mere feet from the sea it was caught in), it never tastes quite as good again. Until last night that is, when I decided to experiment in my Mix It Up kitchen....

Fish and Chip Batter Mix (makes enough to coat 8-10 pieces of fish)

1 cup flour
1/2 cup corn flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika

What else you'll need

1 cup water
1 tablespoon vinegar

I knew I only needed to make 4 pieces of fish last night, so I divided the dry mix in half and made a half batch of batter (using half the water and vinegar to make it as well). Combine the dry ingredients and then stir in the water, then vinegar until smooth. Leave the bowl in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to thicken and chill once it's mixed.

Once the batter is chilled, coat each piece of fish heavily by dipping it in the batter and fry for a few minutes on each side until golden brown and fish is cooked all the way through inside.

Set each piece of fish on a paper towel to drain any excess oil.

Serve with french fries, ketchup and lemon wedges. I made home cut fries to go with mine as well as homemade ketchup (which is actually another great mix coming soon!).

This was by far the BEST battered fish I had ever eaten, including out East where the fish was so fresh it practically swam to my plate. Even though I used frozen sole from Costco, it was the most crispy, delicious perfect fish ever. I'm so excited that there is another half batch of mix sitting in my cupboard. I know it won't last the week!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sweet Dough Mix

It was a friend's birthday this weekend and on Saturday she brought her daughter over to play with mine so we could bake and eat the results under the excuse of her 'birthday'.

I am much more of a cook than a baker, but over the years I have perfected a handful of recipes for those times we've got company coming or need an offering for a party or dinner we're attending. One of my favorite ones to use is cinnamon buns, mainly because I always have all the ingredients in the house already. I make my cinnamon buns with sweet dough, but the recipe can also be used for many other things.

Sweet Dough Mix (single use)

2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered milk
1/2 teaspoon salt

Big Batch (makes 4 uses)

10 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup powdered milk
2 teaspoons salt

What else you'll need

1 cup water
1/4 cup oil
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

Combine water, oil and yeast in a bowl and let it fizz for a minute, then mix in 3 cups of dry mix, stirring well. Once mixture is doughy you can knead it until you get bored, then cover the bowl and let the dough sit and rise for about 45 minutes. Or you can dump everything into the bread machine on 'dough' setting. I did one batch of each because I was short on time. I found the old fashioned way to be more fun though.

Once the dough was made the first thing I made was a batch of cinnamon buns. I rolled out an entire batch of dough into a flat, thick rectangle, brushed it with melted butter, spread on a mixture of cinnamon and sugar and then rolled it up and sliced it. I placed each bun in a pyrex pan and let them rise before baking them in the oven until golden brown. I iced them with a homemade buttercream frosting (icing sugar, butter, vanilla). They were the main event and the biggest hit.

With the second batch of dough I made my other 'sweet dough specialty' - Beaver Tails. We live in Ottawa, which boasts the world's largest outdoor skating rink (a frozen canal). During Winterlude people come to skate, drink hot chocolate and eat beaver tails, which are basically rolled, fried sweet dough covered in toppings. I taught myself how to make them when I lived in Australia because I was trying to explain them to people who had never tried them. When I got home I hosted a few 'beaver tail parties' where guests could choose their own toppings. The most popular version is the Killaloe Sunrise, which is sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and lemon juice so I made that kind.

With a small bit of remaining dough, I attempted a couple of yeast donuts. I shaped the dough and then fried them, and iced them with a mixture of sugar and water. They were good, but I think by the time we tried them we were way too stuffed to appreciate them!

There are many more things you can make with sweet dough, but we probably would have been sick had I tried. There is cinnamon raisin bread, sticky pull aparts, coffee cake, danishes, turnovers and a whole bunch more.

Sweet dough is an excellent mix to have on hand in a big batch because there are so many things you can make with it!