About a month ago it was my husband’s birthday, and Canadian Thanksgiving. In honour (Canadian spelling because I am Canadian!) of American Thanksgiving, I have decided to share my experiment with my beloved turkey stuffing recipe!
All you really need to know about me is that, while I quite like turkey for every holiday, I LOVE STUFFING! You probably won’t ever find a ham in my oven on any holiday because you can’t fill it with delicious stuffing. And at EVERY holiday gathering where stuffing is served, I will make the same “joke” – after putting the bowl of stuffing down in front of myself, I will ask everyone else what THEY are having. So, the fact that I am diabetic and should not be consuming bread or starchy food in any significant quantities is really crimping my style.
Since my mother is also diabetic, and prone to accusing me of trying to kill her if I present too many simple carbohydrates at the holiday dinner table, I decided to put my thinking cap on and see if I could successfully reduce said carbs without inhibiting my enjoyment of my favourite holiday dish.
In our family, each generation has come up with their own version of this holiday staple. My grandmother made a very fine textured stuffing, which was delicious. My mother made a stuffing that was a bit chunkier with slightly larger bread crumbs, and added ground pork – also delicious. My traditional stuffing ended up being much like myself – “if less is more, just think how much more ‘more is more’ would be”, taking my mother’s idea of ground pork and upping that to use hot italian sausage meat, and adding rice to the mix.
My experiment this year was to use quinoa in place of the rice I usually use in my stuffing, and I am happy to say it was a success! By using quinoa, I was able to reduce the carbohydrates in the rice and up the overall protein content. That being said, it was a delicate matter getting the preferred texture of the stuffing right because cooked quinoa can be a lot more moist than rice, and has a tendency to clump together in an unappealing way.
In any case, you be the judge, and feel free to alter amounts in this ‘recipe’ – which is not something that has ever been written down before now. I said before that I LOVE STUFFING, so I will make no more excuses for making FAR more of this stuffing than is required by a gathering of 5 – 8 people! I encourage you to use this more as a jumping off point in the discovery of YOUR perfect stuffing recipe…
Sandra’s Turkey Stuffing
- quinoa – about 1 cup
- chicken broth – 2 cups
- stale bread, buns, crusts – torn into bite-sized chunks to fill a very large bowl (about 12-15 slices, perhaps?)
- dry onion soup mix- two envelopes
- 1 pkg. 5 hot Italian sausage – I like Johnsonville because they are more lean
- celery – 2 or 3 stalks, diced
- onion – 1 medium or large, diced
- mushrooms – 1 package, sliced
- garlic – 2 cloves, chopped
- ground sage
- poultry seasoning
- olive oil or melted butter
- 2 eggs, beaten
Measure about 1 cup of dried quinoa, and rinse several times to remove bitter coating.
After quinoa is rinsed, drain and place in cooking pot with 2 cups chicken broth and a spoonful of butter or olive oil. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until liquid is absorbed. Set pot aside to cool.
Tear bread into bite-sized pieces in a large bowl, and set aside. When quinoa is cooked and cooled, add to the bread crumbs in the large bowl, and stir to mix well. Sprinkle 2 envelopes of dried onion soup mix over the crumb & quinoa mixture, and stir to incorporate. Also blend in salt, pepper, and then dried sage and poultry seasoning to taste (depends on how much bread you use, but I add about a tablespoon or two of each).
Remove sausage meat from casings and cook loose meat until browned, then add to bread crumb mixture in bowl.
Dice celery, onion, garlic, and mushrooms, and cook in a dash of olive oil or melted butter until celery is soft and onions are translucent. Add cooked vegetables to bread crumb mixture in bowl, and stir to blend evenly.
At this point, the mixture in your bowl may have outgrown your large frying/saute pan. If it looks like too much to fit into your pan all at once, you may have to divide into two batches for the next part.
*Put olive oil or butter (butter is nice at this point – adds a nice flavour to the bread crumbs) in your pan over med-high heat, and beat one egg in a small cup or bowl for each batch of bread crumbs. Add first (or all) bread crumb mixture to the heated pan, pour beaten egg over top, and then stir quickly until the egg cooks all the way through, being careful not to burn the mixture.
Once the mixture is cooked, pour into a clean bowl and let cool. If you are cooking the stuffing in batches, repeat steps from the * onward, until all of the bread crumb mixture has been cooked with the egg, adding all of the cooked stuffing to the same bowl to cool. Test and adjust seasoning if needed.
The stuffing can be prepared a day or so ahead of time and it is better that you do – that way the mixture has time to cool down before being stuffed in the prepared turkey. You don’t want to burn your hand trying to stuff hot stuffing into your bird! Not everyone cooks their stuffing inside the bird, but we always have in our family. The stuffing is already cooked but warming inside the bird adds to the flavour. That, and who has space for anything else in their oven once the turkey goes in?
If you prefer not to use the stuffing in your turkey, gently warm stuffing for about 30 minutes or so in a covered roasting pan. Once it has warmed up, you, too, can place the serving bowl in front of your seat and ask everyone else what THEY are going to eat.
Tomorrow will be my 6th anniversary with my wonderful husband, Andrew. Yes, we were married on Halloween, and no, we did not wear costumes!
Our plan is to celebrate by dining out at one of our favourite restaurants, Brasa Brasilian Steakhouse in Niagara Falls, http://www.brasaniagara.com/
Since that means an abundance of grilled meat will be on the menu, I thought I’d keep things lighter and meatless tonight. The main dish will be my Sweet Onion and Beer Soup – a recipe that has become a beloved part of our annual St. Patrick’s Day menu, but something equally appropriate on a cool evening like tonight!
Sandra’s Sweet Onion and Beer Soup
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 6 large sweet onions, such as Walla Wall, Maui, Vidalia, or Mayan, cut into thin slices
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 12 oz can of beer, preferably a slightly sweet one such as a Belgian ale or wheat beer, or a hard cider may be substituted
- 4 cups no-salt-added chicken broth
Heat the oil in a 5-quart pot (preferably one that’s wide and not too tall), over medium heat. Add the onions and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are completely soft. Adjust the heat as needed so the onions do not brown.
Add the butter, stirring to incorporate as it melts. Increase the heat to medium-high and then add the beer.
Once it comes to a boil, cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the beer has reduced. Stir in the broth, then cover the pot and reduce the heat so the liquid barely bubbles at the edges.
Cook for 25 minutes, stirring a few times, then taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Divide the soup among individual serving bowls and then serve right away (as if you will need to be told that, once you smell this wonderful soup!).
Serve each bowl with a lightly toasted slice of bread topped with melted cheddar on the side, or grilled cheese sandwiches for a more hearty meal.
I have come to realize that most adult people have mastered the fine art of making potato salad, where I still have not. Perhaps my late father’s love of ‘all things potato’ made me more obstinate in not learning how to craft this mainstay. He was not a nice man to his family, so why would I learn how to make something he might like?
I actually like a well-made potato salad, and my Mother-in-law has a terrific recipe for it which she was kind enough to share. But ever one to be ‘different’, I figure if everyone else around me can make a fine potato salad there is nothing more for me to add, and I should leave them to it.
Therefore, I decided that I would search for something no one else is making, and make THAT ‘my thing‘. And what did I come up with? Well, this past weekend as we celebrated Thanksgiving in Canada, I unveiled my new recipe for Sweet Potato Salad.
Here is what I did:
Sandra’s Sweet Potato Salad
- 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp Club House Indian Masala seasoning (optional but recommended)
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 yellow bell pepper diced
- 1 green bell pepper diced
- 1 cup onions diced
- 1 cup fresh cilantro chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp Splenda brown sugar substitute
- zest of 1 orange
- 2 tsp deli style mustard (I used Maille brand Au Miel sweet honey mustard, but anything other than yellow prepared mustard should work)
- 1/2 cup canola oil
In a roasting pan, combine cubed sweet potatoes, olive oil, Indian Masala seasoning (if using), salt, and pepper. Stir around, coating potatoes in oil and seasonings. Roast for about 30 minutes at 425 F, or until fork tender and golden brown.
In a large bowl, add potatoes and mix with the rest of the non dressing ingredients. Let cool while you prepare the dressing.
To prepare dressing, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, orange zest, mustard and vegetable oil. Pour dressing over cooled potato salad. Toss.
Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. Toss again prior to serving.
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After spending a large portion of today on a bus going back and forth across town to do a few errands, I finally ended up back at home. THEN the real work began, Monday being laundry day AND the day we put out the garbage for pick-up!
Once my thoughts turned to what would be for dinner, I was reminded of two things: I had already announced to my husband that we had to have leftovers for dinner before they took over complete control of the fridge, so that question was answered; and secondly, there was that bunch of cilantro in the crisper that needed to be used before it got black and slimy.
So, in addition to a hodge-podge of leftover chicken, salmon, pizza, meatballs, pasta, asparagus and brussel sprouts, it was time for something new – guacamole!
My husband and I are partial to my guacamole and I think it is one of the best around, if I do say so myself. It is the cilantro that makes it. If you are a cilantro ‘H8TR’, best turn back now.
Since I am of English & German extraction I really can’t say for sure, but I hear that in Mexico guacamole is most often served on lettuce as a salad or side dish. It can also be used as a garnish for tacos, burritos, tostadas, or flautas, as well as a dip with tortilla chips or raw vegetables. I think it would be delicious no matter how you use it!
- 2 large avocados, ripe (should be black in colour and slightly soft to the touch)
- 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
- 1/4 cup sour cream (optional, but recommended!)
- 1 clove of crushed garlic
- 1 canned/bottled jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup onion, finely minced
- few sprigs of cilantro, coarsely chopped
- salt, to taste
1. Halve the avocados lengthwise and twist to open. Remove pit and scoop out pulp, then mash with a fork. Since my carpal tunnel is acting up today and one of my avocados was slightly less ripe and soft than I would have liked, I used a sharp knife and cut up the pulp in the bowl first to make it a little easier for my feeble hand to mash the avocado into a smooth paste.
2. Add lime juice, garlic, chopped onion, jalapeno, a pinch of salt, and cilantro, mixing after each addition.
3. Add sour cream if using – I think it adds to the delightful creamy texture and makes the finished product a little richer, so it is definitely worth using. I use low fat 5% sour cream for the best of the low fat world, while still having some flavour.
I cheated a bit today and used bottled lime juice because I forgot to pick up a couple of fresh limes, but use fresh if you can. They are always better!
Once everything is blended, you must test the final product and if necessary, adjust to taste.
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I enjoyed a lovely, breezy walk in the sun today on my way to join a friend for lunch. It was glorious after such a gloomy week! Of course, that didn’t stop me from getting caught in the pouring rain without an umbrella and getting soaked to the skin on my way home. Sigh. I decided to stop off to pick up a bunch of cilantro on my way, so I guess it was my own fault.
Folks either love or hate cilantro, there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. Luckily, my husband and I BOTH love cilantro, so I don’t have to start looking for a new spouse.
The acquisition of cilantro in our household usually means several things: before it goes black and slimy in the fridge, we will be having cucumber and chickpea salad; mango salad; and guacamole!
First up tonight is the cucumber and chickpea salad which will be a great side to our roasted chicken, and then tomorrow we will have to pick up a couple of mangos, and of course avocados when we get groceries.
This is a recipe in three parts and one should make the chickpeas first since they take the longest to prepare, followed by the dressing, and finally the salad itself.
Sandra’s Cucumber Salad with Roasted Chickpeas:
1. Roasted Spiced Chickpeas
- 1 (15-oz) can chickpeas (or 1 1/2 cups cooked)
- 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
Preheat oven to 400F.
- Rinse and drain the chickpeas and place onto paper towel. Cover with additional paper towels and roll the chickpeas around until completely dry to help them crisp up in the oven.
- Add the chickpeas to a mixing bowl and stir in the oil until coated, then stir in the seasonings.
- Discard paper towel and place chickpeas on the baking sheet.
- Roast at 400F for 20 minutes. Give the pan a gentle shake to stir the chickpeas and roast for another 15-20 minutes, until golden and lightly charred on the bottom. I roast for a full 40 minutes because I like them on the crispy side, but keep an eye on them as oven temps vary.
- Cool for 5 minutes or so before eating them or using on top your salad. They will lose their crispness quickly so these are best enjoyed immediately. You can also freeze the chickpeas once fully cooled and reheat them in the oven for 5 minutes or so to bring back the crispness, or store in an airtight ziploc bag.
*Alternatively, I came across The Good Bean All-Natural Roasted Chickpea Snacks, and found them to be a great time-saver if you don’t have the time or inclination to roast your own chickpeas. Use the sea-salt flavour so the seasonings don’t conflict with the flavours in your salad! Check their website to see availability in your area: http://www.thegoodbean.com/sea-salt/
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons sugar (or Splenda artificial sweetener), to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Place dressing ingredients together in a cruet and shake to mix. Adjust to taste and feel free to add more sweetener if you prefer. Set aside.
- 2 English cucumbers, skins left on
- 1 large red pepper, diced
- 1 large green pepper, diced
- 1 small yellow or orange pepper, diced
- 1 cup diced onion (I like a sweet Vidallia onion, but a red onion looks pretty too)
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
(Optional, but recommended if you don’t have nut allergies:)
- 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
- Roasted spiced chickpeas
1. Remove plastic and slice off the ends of the cucumbers, and slice in quarters, lengthwise, then cut into bite-sized pieces and place in bowl.
2. Dice the red, green, and orange/yellow peppers and onion and add to bowl.
3. Roughly chop cilantro, discarding stem ends, and add to bowl.
Pour in all the dressing and toss to combine. Let this salad sit for about 30 minutes in the fridge, tossing every 10 minutes or so to help the dressing soak in.
Portion into bowls and top with peanuts and roasted chickpeas if using. Serve immediately.
With lots of fibre, plant-based protein, low fat, gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free, this salad not only looks great, but is great for you!
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Creativity does splash over into all areas of my life. I can’t always be making jewellery even though I enjoy it, and sometimes I make other things – like food, for instance. I am a fan of food in all of its many forms.
Yesterday after making a bunch of sterling silver clip on earrings to boost my stock levels in that category, thoughts turned to making dinner. Since I have been laid off from my admin assistant “day job” for a while and a new job is proving elusive, I have a lot more time on my hands to plan dinner for my husband, Andrew, and myself, but I don’t always get very elaborate, and very rarely do I make a dessert. However, the mood for something sweet struck and I decided to make one of my favourite things – banana bread!
My late aunt Elaine was well-known for her banana bread recipe, but alas, it was never passed on to the family, so I had to go online and search for a reasonable facsimile. I think the secret to her banana bread was more bananas than most recipes. Having found a suitable substitute recipe, I of course could not leave well enough alone and I made key changes and additions to the recipe to make it my own!
Because Andrew likes bananas in his lunches sometimes, and because we flirt with the idea of dieting and making smoothies for diet breakfasts but then never make the smoothies, we often have a lot of bananas ripening faster than we eat them. Rather than throw those blackening bananas out, however, I toss them into the freezer until they reach critical mass. Since one loaf of banana bread requires 3 or 4 (read: 4) bananas, I am now making two loaves of banana bread.
So, I take 8 frozen bananas out of the freezer to thaw in a bowl.
Keep in mind that once a banana has been frozen the peel often turns completely black, and once the bananas thaw they are truly disgusting to look at and mushy in consistency. This is EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT for making banana bread! I wouldn’t suggest it for anything else, namely because they are so disgusting, but for this one purpose they are PERFECT!
Once the bananas are thawed, preheat the oven to 350F (175C) degrees, and then cut off one end of each banana and squeeze from the opposite end like a tube of toothpaste. The bananas will slither out of their peels along with some liquid, and will splat into your large mixing bowl. DO NOT BE ALARMED. Once all bananas are in your bowl, mash them gently and incorporate the accumulated liquid into the mixture of mashed bananas. Because the bananas are already mushy this is very easy to do.
Melt the butter in a microwave and then mix into the mashed bananas.
Mix in the egg, vanilla and sugar. I prefer to use a brown sugar substitute like Splenda (or no-name brown sugar substitute) since we try to watch our sugar consumption around here, but you can use regular white or brown sugar for good results.
Once the flour is all blended in, you should be looking at something like this:
If you were following the original recipe you would stop there and pour the mixture into two buttered (or silicone) loaf pans. However, I already told you that I could not leave well-enough alone. So, from here I would add not only chopped walnuts (which make everything better, and they are good for you!), but I also add chocolate chips for good measure. After all, bananas and chocolate are a famous pairing!
I prefer to buy shelled walnuts that are not chopped and then chop them lightly myself since there are fewer shells in the mix to break your teeth! Slightly larger chunks of walnuts yield a more pleasing finished product, but use your own preference to guide you.
The chocolate chips should be semi-sweet.
Fold the nuts and chocolate chips (if using – and I think you should) into the batter until they are evenly blended.
THEN pour the mixture into two buttered metal (or silicone) loaf pans. I got silicone pans a few years ago and they release the finished product like a dream! But because I also worry about the flimsy nature of the silicone pans, I put the two filled loaf pans on top of a flat baking sheet for stability and bake in the oven for 1 hour, or until centre of loaf is set.
Use a toothpick to test the centre of the loaves to make sure they are set in the centre – if the toothpick comes out clean they are done. But if you hit a chocolate chip while testing pick another spot because the chocolate will be melted and moist at this point!
Cool on a rack and remove from pans to slice and serve!
The second loaf freezes well if you wrap in plastic wrap and put into a plastic bag once cooled, or you could invite some friends over to share!
Sandra’s Banana Bread Recipe:
- 3 or 4 (use 4) ripe bananas, mashed
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 1 cup sugar (I reduce to 3/4 cup and use brown sugar substitute like Splenda)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- Optional: (but I do advise it)
- 1/2 cup lightly chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350F. Mix butter into mashed banana in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mixing in. If using, fold in chopped walnuts and chocolate chips and blend evenly. Pour into buttered 4 x 8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.
Makes one loaf.
Fred – a store – handmade gifts & costume jewellery design