Monday, December 28, 2009

Creole Turkey Jambalaya

Hope everyone enjoyed the holidays! If you cooked a turkey, here is a tasty recipe for using up some leftovers.

As I understand it, there are two kinds of Jambalaya: Creole and Cajun. It seems the main difference is that the Creole version contains tomatoes and the rice and stock are added near the end. The Cajun version does not have tomatoes, and I believe the rice and stock are added at the beginning and simmered for longer.

Traditional recipes call for fresh tomatoes, but in my neck of the woods, it is nearly impossible to find good fresh tomatoes in the winter. There are some good hydroponic tomatoes grown in Ontario now, however, I have yet to find them in Chinatown. If fresh tomatoes are available, by all means, use them! Add them before you deglaze the pan and saute them until they are browned. This will add a whole other dimension of flavour to your dish as it brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes.

Feel free to use other meats and seafood. I've done this with ham instead of sausage and it was fantastic. I've also used soaked, salt cod instead of the shrimp. It had a stronger fish flavour and it was delicious. I don't cook much shellfish, but I imagine that any kind would be great.

If you wanted to make this a dish that is cooked longer, such as something you do in your crockpot for the day, be sure to add the shrimp in the last bit of cooking because it will become rubbery otherwise.

I do this dish in my big cast iron pan for maximum browning and flavour. I have used my electric skillet previously and I did not feel that the flavour had enough depth.

Ingredients:

1 cup cubed, cooked turkey (or chicken)
1 cup cubed smoked sausage (kielbasa is perfect and easy to find)
Few handfuls of cooked shrimp (still frozen shrimp is perfectly find)
1 large green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large cooking onion, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 small can of diced, stewed tomatoes
4 cups of good chicken broth (purchased boxed broth is perfect here)
3 cups of uncooked, parboiled rice (or rice of your choosing, I have not tried this with brown rice)
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste

1. Saute your meats and veggies together until the veggies are soft and the meats are slightly browned.
2. Deglaze the pan with about half of the stock. Be sure to scrape all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
3. Add the tomatoes, seasonings, rice and the rest of the stock. Stir well to combine. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Test for seasoning, but avoid taking rice during your test as it will not be cooked. Adjust seasonings as needed.
5. Add the shrimp, cover and simmer for another 10 or 15 minutes until the rice is cooked all the way through.

Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

If you feel like being bad, make this candy

1 cup brown sugar
1 stick of real butter
9 saltine crackers
handful of chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line a 8 X 8 pan with parchment paper or foil. Arrange the crackers in the pan.
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the sugar and bring it to the boil. Let boil for 3 minutes.
4. Pour the butter and sugar mixture over the crackers.
5. Bake for 5 minutes, then sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. When melted, spread them evenly over the top.

Let cool or place in freezer for 15 minutes if you can not wait. Delicious. It tastes like something complicated that took a really long time and everyone will be impressed.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Scottish Shortbread

Easy, traditional, delicious cookies for the holidays.

3 cups of flour
1/2 lb butter
1 cup brown sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 325.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar. The easiest way to do this is with a hand mixer.
  3. Add the flour and mix well. Knead with your hands briefly until the dough becomes smooth.
  4. Roll out the dough until it is approximately 1/2 thick. Either cut out with cookie cutters or cut into strips.
  5. Place on an ungreased cookie sheets and and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

15 minute Asian Beef Soup

This is fast, cheap and tasty.

1. Brown a pound of ground beef. Add a couple of chopped green onions, a handful of fresh corriander (or any herb, really), some grated fresh ginger or a dallop of bottled grated ginger, and a clove or two of garlic.

2. Heat a can of chicken broth mixed with two can fulls of water.

3. Add the meat, one thinly sliced pepper, dried chili flakes to taste, a handful of thin rice noodles, a handful of thinly sliced cabbage (could even used packaged coleslaw mix here). You could also add any veggies, chopped small, a this stage.

4. Bring to the boil for a few minutes, then let simmer for as long as you have and serve.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The problem with relationships

The problem with relationships is that you never really know who you are dealing with until you live with them. People can be all kinds of things in their public lives, and be someone completely different in their private life. The problem is that by the time you get to know someone for who they are privately, you are likely well down the path of forming a life around that person. You may have reorganized many aspects of your life to fit that person in, and various people have all sorts of expectations of you and this relationship. Things might have been rolling along just fine between you and surprise! You learn that your partner is going to spend a lot of time looking at internet porn, or expects to have control of the thermostat at all times, or that they hate to go grocery shopping and you're going to be doing it by yourself. These seem like small things, but they are not. These are the things that can make or break your life together. These are the things that can make daily life a living hell.

Earlier in Western culture, marriage was permanent. Most people got married, and stayed that way because leaving was not a socially acceptable or legally readily available option. That is how marriages kept people together. I am not suggesting that I think everyone has to get married, or that they should have to stay in relationships that are damaging in some way. I'm just saying that the idea of leaving was not there in the way it is now, looming over every aspect of your relationship as the ultimate solution to whatever problem you have in front of you.

I think this is why couples have a hard time solving problems in their relationships, at least in western society. You don't really have to solve relationship problems now. You don't really have to negotiate about anything. Not going to do what I want? No problem! I'm leaving. I've actually conducted an informal peer survey around this. I asked people how often one or both partners suggest or say outright that they are leaving during an argument. Every single person I talked to said that this happens in most if not all of their arguments. Leaving may not actually happen, but the words are still there, hovering over the relationship, like a permanent thought-bubble in a comic strip that otherwise proceeds.

I also think there is a link between this mentality and consumerist culture. Consumerism trains us to think that we can always have what we want, and if the thing we have now is not what we want, we can throw it out and get a new one.

Somehow, we have to get back to understanding that people (and all things, really) are not disposable. We have to get back to thinking that once we have committed to someone, we are there for life, come what may. We have to get back to problem solving. We have to accept that we may have to take a step forward into territory we hadn't planned on entering, and that we might have to accept something that we do not want. We have to get back to valuing the happiness and contentment of our partners. And the bigger trick seems to be that BOTH people have to do this. One person can try to make this leap, but if their partner is not there with them, both people are going end up angry and bitter.

I have no idea how to get there. These are just some things I've been thinking about, as I've been learning about being married, and as I've been watching some relationships end in the lives of people around me.