Eggies in a Basket – the perfect Valentines Day Breaky

Full disclosure- Violet wasn’t even here during the making of this dish as Grandmas are freakin’ wonderful and she had a V day sleepover. She did arrive home during the “enjoy” step however and snag some bacon (for what I am told is her FOURTH breakfast haha – she just might be a hobbit.) 

I, like everyone else on the internet apparently, first wanted to make this dish after seeing it prepared on V for Vendetta, a great film.

 

V makes eggies

 
The marvel of V being able to make the eggies is that he was able to score real butter during a time of strict rations. I’ve seen a few very,very wrong recipes for this dish out there, but even the most misguided seems to grasp the base principal; this dish is all about the butter. 

There are only three things you need (in addition to a pan and spatula, come now don’t be so literal), good bread, good eggs and any kind of butter you can get your hands on. Here’s hoping you aren’t living in a dictatorship like V was and it isn’t too much trouble to get that last ingredient. 

My husband says this was one of the best breakfasts he ever had, so get crackin’ and make your loved one a Valentine’s dish to remember (that doesn’t even come close to breaking the bank).

 

Our Valentines Day Breakfast

 
Eggies in a Basket 

Turn frying pan to medium and melt 1 tablespoon of butter per piece of bread. 

Tear a hole in centre of each slice. 

Once butter is melted, place bread in pan for a few seconds then flip, ensuring both sides have sucked up some buttery goodness. 

Crack an egg into a wee bowl and carefully pour into centre of each slice (or crack directly in bread hole if you are a pro).

Once the whites have started to firm up a little and turn white (this only takes a minute or two), get a spatula out but before you flip, get another tablespoon of butter ready and throw it in and melt a bit beside the bread, then flip bread and let it soak up all that melted butter. 

Many recipes say to wait a few minutes at this point but that will result in over cooked eggs. If you want some runny yoke, remove from the pan as soon as both sides of bread are nicely browned and crisp. 

Serve immediately, with a mimosa because they are awesome. 


Alton Brown’s Baked Beans… Sort of

Anyone who is familiar with Alton Brown is aware how particular he is as a chef. He crafts his recipes very carefully with detailed measurements, urgings to weigh ingredients, and scientific mumbo-jumbo to explain how the whole thing works.

He probably would not be happy with me altering his recipe, but fate be damned I am doing it anyways!

I have been making these baked beans for nearly a decade and they always turn out well. In recent years I have made a few changes which seem to result in baked beans which me and my wide variety of food tasters seem to *gasp!* prefer to Alton’s original recipe. Simmer down Alton lovers; all I did was remove one jalapeño and add in some vinegar and maple syrup. Did you know that maple syrup is a flavour enhancer, much like vanilla? A little goes a long way! I also omit the bean water in favour of more flavourful broth and remove the lid for the last bit of cooking time for a deep browning. Plan on closer to 8 hours than 6.

So comforting and filling, baked beans are a great winter dish served with some Cornbread and a salad.

Also for anyone wanting to make less than what seems like a mountain of beans at the end, I have halved this recipe with great results!

Baked Beans

Adapted from Alton Brown’s Once and Future Baked Beans

1 pound dried Great Northern beans
1 pound bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
3 tablespoons of apple cider or other vinegar
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt

—–
Heat oven to 250 degrees F.

Soak beans in a plastic container overnight in just enough cold water to submerge them completely.

Place a Dutch oven over medium heat and stir in the bacon, onion, and jalapenos until enough fat has rendered from the bacon to soften the onions, about 5 minutes. If desired, remove some bacon fat with a few paper towels. Stir in the tomato paste, dark brown sugar, molasses, vinegar, and syrup. Cook for a few minutes.

Drain the beans and rinse. Add the drained beans to the Dutch oven. Add the vegetable broth to the Dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Add in cayenne, black pepper and salt. Give them a stir and cover with the lid. Place the Dutch oven in the oven for 6 to 8 hours, or until the beans are tender. Remove lid for last 30-45 minutes of cooking.

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Roasted Squash with Pomegrante Rice Stuffing

Even though my husband and I are not vegetarian every once in a while we like to have a meatless main course which helps to cut down on both meal costs and calories.

I used to make a dish similar to this but with cous cous and Mediterranean seasonings and always used to use acorn squash. However my CSA share has yielded a great variety of squashes including delicata, carnival and red kuri.
*Any squash that can hold stuffing would be fine in this recipe but the carnival squash really was divine and all three of the aforementioned squashes have edible skins; just give them a good scrub before baking like you would a potato.

I cheated a little and used a bistro package of pre cooked unseasoned basmati rice which was heated slightly less than directed in the microwave one minute but we are quite picky eaters and it was very good! All was devoured and little miss Violet really enjoyed hers.

Serve with a salad for a very satisfying

Serve with a salad for a very satisfying and healthy meal

Roasted Squash with Pomegranate Rice Stuffing

Adapted from Chow com.

Serves 2-3

3 medium size carnival squash*

4 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

2 medium shallots, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

2 cups (or 1 small bag of bistro rice) of any cooked rice mix

1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins

2/3 cup pecans, chopped and toasted

1/2 cup chickpeas

seeds from half a pomegranate

1 tsp. thyme or Italian seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 and cut squash lengthwise and seed.

Place squash cut-side up on a baking sheet, brush with 2 tablespoons of melted butter, sprinkle with sugar and a little salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until just fork tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place 1 tablespoon of the melted butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. When it foams, add the onion, shallots, carrot and celery, season with salt and pepper, and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the thyme and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and stir in the rice, pecans, cranberries/raisins, chickpeas, the majority of the pomegranate seeds and measured salt and pepper.

Divide the rice filling among the roasted squash halves (about 1/2 cup for each) and drizzle the remaining tablespoon of butter over top. Continue roasting until the squash is completely fork tender, the edges have started to brown, and the filling is heated through, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Greek Lasagna (gluten free)

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Greek lasagna you say? What the heck is that? Okay I admit it, I kind of tricked you with this title as this recipe is actually for moussaka, which is basically Greek lasagna and happens to be naturally gluten free. However the name moussaka conjures images of something strange and fishy more than it does a meaty, saucy, creamy eggplanty type delight and wanted you to give it a fair chance.

Moussaka is practically the national dish of Greece. The dish originated in Turkey as a lamb and eggplant braise, which was then reworked by the Greek chef Tselementes and became the dish it is today. The classic version is still prepared almost the same way wherever you go in Greece.

Peter Conistis

I saw moussaka being cooked on the food network a year or so ago and have made it many times since then. Guests never have any idea what it is but always seem to enjoy it quite a bit.

Here is how it differs from Italian lasagna:

-No noodles! Instead to create layers there are usually sliced potatoes on the bottom and a layer of eggplant (can be substituted for zucchini) in there somewhere as well.

-Many recipes do not contain cheese, and if they do it is usually feta or a hard Greek sheep cheese called Kefalotyri (κεφαλοτύρι) . I have used feta, no cheese, and a blasphemous combination mozzarella and ricotta, as I describe here. All were delicious. Instead of using the no- cook ricotta mix for the topping as I have described here you can use a béchamel sauce with an egg (or two) mixed in at the end. This makes it a much more frugal dish than lasagna (which you must buy ricotta for) if using the béchamel sauce.

-The sauce is tomato based like Italian Lasagna, but usually has spices like cinnamon or allspice included, which makes the flavour out of this world! Since stumbling across moussaka I have been putting cinnamon in all my Italian style tomato/pasta sauces as well and it is very good. Subtle and most people can’t quite guess what the ingredient is.

-Some recipes I have seen use beef, some lamb, and some a combination. I have used beef, ground pork, and a combination and they are all very good. We aren’t lamb lovers but if you are I am sure that is tasty (and more traditional) as well.

I heavily adapted this recipe from Chef Peter Conistis and it was much easier than other recipes I have used due to the no cook cheese topping (I also used leftover meat sauce from Won Ton Wrapper Mini Lasagnas I had made for a party a few days ago which made assembly a breeze).

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Greek Lasagna (Moussaka)

Sauté 1/2 lb. of pork, beef or combo, drain, add a chopped onion and a few minced cloves of garlic and either a jar of tomato sauce or a can of crushed or strained tomatoes). Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of sugar, and 1 cup of water or red wine.

Cover and simmer on low for as long as you have (10 minutes – a few hours).

Preheat oven to 400f convection.

Wash and slice 3 large potatoes or 6 small (I used new potatoes). Toss in salt, pepper and oil and throw into an oiled casserole dish (I used an 8×8 but it was really pushing the limits).

Slice 1 large eggplant or 3 baby eggplants lengthwise and toss in oil and salt and pepper. Place on parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake eggplant and potatoes in oven together for 20 minutes or until eggplant a little brown. Remove from oven and turn oven down to 375f.

Meanwhile, in a bowl mix half a large container of ricotta, 1.5 cups of grated mozzarella, a handful of chopped parsley, salt and pepper, a dash of nutmeg, 3/4 cup of half and half cream, and 2 eggs.

Push potatoes around in dish so they are evenly layered.

Pour all of your meat sauce over the potatoes.

Lay the eggplant in a layer (slightly overlapping) overtop of the meat.

Pour on your ricotta mix.

Refrigerate for later baking or bake for 30-40 minutes or until browned.

Storage: The next day, separate cut slices onto foil lined pan and freeze for a few hours. Remove from pan, wrap each slice in plastic wrap and place in a labelled freezer bag. Stores well for several months and individual slices reheat great in microwave or toaster oven.

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Extra Crispy Baked Buttermilk Chicken Breasts

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For many years, the crispiest baked chicken has alluded me. I have even resorted to deep frying at times to attain restaurant quality crispiness. But oh the calories and oh the mess!

Not anymore, folks! This recipe starts off with REAL buttermilk. Yes you can make your own buttermilk by souring milk with a little vinegar or lemon juice, but I have found that it is just not the same as the juiciness (meat marinades) and fluffiness (baked goods) real buttermilk guarantees you. You can either buy it in the store or use the buttermilk produced when you make your own butter.

Many recipes go on about panko being the only way to ensure a crispy breaking on baked meats. I never got on the panko bandwagon as I find they are so big they don’t evenly coat everywhere and have a tendency to fall off. Either way, you don’t need them for this recipe and the tiny bit of butter and oil really gives them a deep fried crispness and rich taste without too many extra calories.

This recipe will not disappoint!

Extra Crispy Buttermilk Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1.5 cups of buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper or paprika
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
1/4 cup of flour
1/4 cup of cornmeal
1 tablespoon of grapeseed or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of melted butter

Turn the chicken breast over so the nice looking side is down and use the edge of a plate, a mug, or similar to pound them a little so they are flatter and more even.

Marinade chicken in a zip lock bag with the spices and milk for 2-24 hours.

Preheat oven to 400f.

Combine salt and pepper, breadcrumbs, cornmeal, and flour on plate.

Foil a cookie sheet and spread the oil over the area the chicken will sit.

Use tongs to remove chicken from marinade, shake a little to remove excess, and coat very well on both sides with breadcrumb mix.

Place on cookie sheet and drizzle butter over each top, trying to lightly cover the surface.

Bake for 15 minutes, flip and another 10-15 minutes until evenly crisp.

Serve immediately.

 

 

Grilled Italian Pork Chops

So easy and quick!

So easy and quick!

As a new mom I can really appreciate a recipe that has few ingredients, a brief prep and cooking time, and the ability to satisfy.If I can’t do most of it while holding a baby, it just might not get done. Moms have to multitask. There is just too much to get done! Even now as I am typing this I am nursing the wee Violet, planning dinner for tonight in the back of my head, and having a belated breakfast.

My in-laws came for dinner this week, and I knew I needed to find something low carb and pork or beef based to feed them that would be super quick (my MIL has dietary restrictions). A quick scan of the interwebs and I found this recipe for grilled pork chops and 10 minutes later I was back from the store with some lovely loin chops (*my husband was trained as a butcher and always tells me when choosing meat to pick anything with the word “loin” in it for lots of flavour). For the Italian seasoning, I highly recommend the PC Italian Seasoning grinder, which is my most used spice and the best commercial seasoning I have ever found. Sometimes when I adapt a recipe, it takes a few goes to get it right but this one was a winner right from the get-go. Our guests loved it, I used up all the super sweet cherry tomatoes from my CSA share, and there was minimal cleanup. Welcome to the weekly line up, Grilled Italian Pork Chops- I hope you enjoy your stay 🙂

Grilled Italian Pork Chops

serves 4 

6 pork chops*

1 cup of Italian salad dressing

1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes

a few tablespoons of grape seed or olive oil

6 sandwich size slices of mozzarella

Italian seasoning**

salt and pepper

small handful of basil, chopped

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Place pork chops in bag or dish and coat with dressing. Marinate for 15 minutes to overnight.

Place tomatoes on foil lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Italian seasoning and salt and pepper.

Roast at 400 for 20 minutes or until a little browned/blackened on top.  Set aside.

Oil and preheat grill to medium-high. Place chops on grill and sprinkle with salt and pepper and some Italian seasoning.

Grill for 2-4  minutes, then do a quarter turn (for nice grill marks) and grill for another 2-4 minutes (depending on thickness of chops). Flip and grill for another 2-4 minutes. Do another quarter turn then layer on your cheese, tomatoes (a few per chop) and basil and grill for the remaining 2- 4 minutes for a total of 8-16 minutes (roughly).

Let rest a few minutes before serving.

 

Meatball grilled cheese

Do you have leftover meatballs ? Do yourself a favour and create this protein- packed upgrade to the childhood classic grilled cheese.

I searched many recipes before I came up with this one and took something I liked from each one – the result was a very delicious and substantial sandwich that was NOT soggy as I had feared (this has kept me from trying any meatball based sandwiches my entire life !).

Try this and you too soon might find yourself making a few extra meatballs on spaghetti night to ensure meatball grilled cheese night can directly follow!

Meatball Grilled Cheese

Nice hearty bakery bread like a French or Italian loaf

Medium cheddar (about 1/2 cup per sandwich)

Mozzarella (same amount as cheddar per sandwich)

minced garlic (one clove will do 6 sandwiches or more)

Butter – enough to liberally cover both sides of all your bread

Meatballs (about 4 per sandwich)

Marinara sauce* (about 2-3 tablespoons per sandwich)

Salt and Pepper

—–

Put meatballs in a small pot on stove covered in the marinara sauce to heat up

slice the bread thickly

Butter both sides, season with salt and pepper, and put a few bits of the minced garlic on each side.

Brown all of your slices in a preheated nonstick pan – flip over and while the other side is grilling add cheddar to half your bread and mozzarella to the other half.

That’s a mountain of cheese ! Give it as long as you can to cook and then once your bread is grilled to perfection, flip over with the cheese side down and cook for 30 seconds or so until the cheese is melted.

Assemble immediately by putting 4 meatballs and a few spoons of sauce between a slice of cheddar garlic bread and a slice of mozzarella garlic bread. DIVINE !

*add a tsp of cinnamon to your marinara sauce and make it Greek style – it is SO good!