Archive | February, 2013

Recipe: Buttermilk Tea Biscuits

22 Feb

Tea biscuits are one of those things that’s just better fresh out of the oven, all warm and fluffy. They’re fantastic sandwiched around some eggs, sausage and cheese like they do at Tim Horton’s. They also make a great side for soups or a topping for turkey pot pie. My mother even claimed to have made tea biscuits with butter and jam for dinner when she lived alone as a young woman. Not a bad plan…

Buttermilk Tea Biscuits

Buttermilk Tea Biscuits |

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening (the colder the better)
1 cup buttermilk*

Stir together the flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt. Use a pastry blender to cut the shortening in until the mixture is crumbly. Gradually pour in the buttermilk, stirring with a fork until the ingredients form a loose dough. Don’t overmix. Scrape onto a well floured surface and pat the dough into 1″ thick circle.

Use a biscuit cutter, or a glass or the lid from the peanut butter to cut the biscuits. Make sure to flour the cutter and don’t twist the implement you’re using – just press straight down and lift. If you twist, this can affect how high the biscuits rise.

Bake on a floured sheet at 450 degrees for about 12 minutes.

*A note on buttermilk… Yes, buttermilk is expensive and is kind of a pain because it really only comes in a 1 litre carton. You use 1 cup then you have to figure out what to do with the rest unless you have a crazy family member who likes to drink buttermilk. This is why I buy DRY buttermilk powder at the Bulk Barn. I throw 3 or so tablespoons into a 1 cup liquid measuring cup and reconstitute it with 1 cup of regular 1% milk. Works great!

Recipe: Traditional Apple Crisp

10 Feb

When I do make apple crisp, I inevitably make a second one as soon as the first is done because it’s so good and seems to go so quickly. Something magical happens when the warm, tart apples and crispy and sweet oat topping combines with melting vanilla ice cream.

This is an adaptation of a recipe from the ‘All New Purity Cookbook’ originally printed in 1967. It’s a classic Canadian cookbook and reprints are readily available. Check it out if you’re looking for a how-to for basic comfort foods.

Traditional Apple Crisp

Traditional Apple Crisp |

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 cup butter
4 Large McIntosh apples, peeled and sliced

In a large bowl, add the flour, oats, brown sugar and cinnamon and mix thoroughly. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the texture becomes crumbly. Prepare the apples and place them in a greased 9″ glass pie dish. Pour the crumble evenly over the top and place in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.

Let sit for 10 minutes before serving with ice cream. And maybe a drizzle of maple syrup or caramel sauce.

Tools of the Trade: Pastry Blender

10 Feb

Even if you’re lazy like me and don’t make your own pie pastry, a pastry blender can be a very helpful kitchen gadget to have around. Pastry blenders are designed to act like a bunch of coordinated knives to ‘cut’ fat (butter, shortening, lard, etc.) into a flour mixture.

Given that I’m about to post two recipes that require the use of a pastry blender, I thought I’d talk about how to pick a good quality tool.

You might remember your mom or grandma having something like this…  The problem with this style is that the tines can easily get bent out of shape and the handle isn’t stable enough to provide enough force to be efficient.

You want to look for something that has an oval grip (vs. round) and rigid metal tines. You want to make sure that the grip is solid and doesn’t roll (like grandma’s was prone to doing). Ergonomics is key! You’ll also want to make sure it’s dishwasher safe because cleaning between the tines is a pain in the ass.

Mine is similar to this Cuisipro from As usual, Oxo makes a pretty good version as well.

Even though it’s not something you’ll use every day, I guarantee getting an updated pastry blender (or having one period) will exponentially decrease the amount of swearing you’ll do the next time you attempt a pastry or crumb topping.

Recipe: Garlic Baked Chicken & Potatoes

9 Feb

This dish is so cheap, so easy and so full of flavour that it’s hard for it not to become a favourite. It’s based on traditional Lebanese flavourings called ‘toum, zait w haamid’. Translated from Arabic that’s garlic (toum), zait (oil), haamid (lemon). Here, this tangy combo covers potatoes and cheap bone-in chicken (legs & thighs work best) for a hearty winter meal. It’s probably not a good pick for Valentine’s Day, but we really like it.

Garlic Baked Chicken & Potatoes

Garlic Baked Chicken & Potatoes |

6-10 pieces of bone-in chicken
3-5 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced in 1/2 inch thick discs
20 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 cup lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon shawarma style spices (available at your friendly neighbourhood Arabic grocery store)

This recipe is easily scaled to fit your family. Depending on how much chicken you’re using, use either a 9×9 or a 9×13 baking dish. Arrange the chicken in the bottom and make cuts in the flesh with a sharp knife. (This will help the sauce to soak in later.) Rub the chicken with a couple of tablespoons of oil, salt and the shawarma style spices.

Take the sliced and peeled potatoes and zap them in the microwave for 4 minutes. This helps to soften them so they’ll be done at the same time as the chicken. Then toss them on top of the chicken and salt lightly.

Throw the dish into the oven and bake at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes.

In the meantime, break out your blender or food processor. Add the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and blitz the garlic until smooth (4-5 minutes). Add the lemon juice and blitz for another 4-5 minutes.

When the chicken is done (use a meat thermometer to be sure) pour the sauce overtop of the potatoes and chicken and stir to cover all of the pieces. Switch the oven to broil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes start to brown nicely.

Serve with a nice fresh salad.

Recipe: Mom’s Quiche

2 Feb

Both of my parents are pretty good cooks and a good portion of the ‘secret’ recipes I have kicking around are things they made regularly when I was growing up.  I’ve tweaked a few of them over the years and this quiche is one of our favourites.

My mother of course makes her crust from scratch which I can’t be bothered to do so I instead use a deep dish pre-fab frozen crust. Her recipe simply calls for cheese and broccoli as add ins, but of course I had to put bacon in mine. Feel free to experiment – feta, red pepper and chicken, mushroom and swiss, smoked salmon…  The options are endless!

Mom’s Quiche

Mom's Quiche |

1 frozen deep dish pie crust
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup chopped frozen spinach, drained
1/2 cup pre-cooked crumbled bacon (I like Kirkland brand from Costco)
1 brick cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup milk
4 eggs
1 tablespoon chives
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
dash of paprika

Sprinkle the cheese in the bottom of the pie crust. Arrange the rest of your ingredients on top. Beat the cream cheese and milk until smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the salt and chives. Spoon the egg mixture over your toppings. Sprinkle the top with the parmesan cheese and the paprika.

Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

Taste Test: Al Safa Beef Chapli Kabab

1 Feb

So I had seen the green boxes of beef chapli kabab in the grocery store many times before.

I hadn’t ever picked any up because frankly I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. When I saw FreshCo had them on sale this week for $3.99 for a box of 8 and with nothing planned for dinner, I figured I’d give them a shot.

According to the wikipedia entry on all things kabab, the chapli version is popular in Pakistan and Afghanistan and usually consists of beef or lamb mince with veggies, spices and herbs that is shaped and grilled like a hamburger. In fact, chapli comes from the Pashto word Chaprikh which means flat.

The package directions gives you the option to pan fry, grill or heat the patties in the oven. With the frigid temperatures outside and wanting to avoid extra fat, I opted for the latter. Most of the recipes I had seen called for them to be served with a size of minted yogurt sauce and salad so I opted to make my greek yogurt and dill dip (subbing mint for dill) and my shawarma salad as sides. I had mine loose on the plate while Mr. Bacon opted to make his into a sandwich with a pita.

We were both pleasantly surprised at how tasty and tender these were. Very savoury with familiar Middle Eastern flavours and a nice hit of spice. They’ll for sure be making regular appearances in our kitchen. An added bonus – despite being pre-fabricated and frozen – the label only had REAL ingredients listed. Nothing unpronounceable.

I can’t wait till spring to try them as a hamburger!