Recipes and Tips to Use Different Ingredients

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What Can I Make With Leeks?

Filed under: Fresh Vegetables — Susanne @ 6:54 pm

Leeks have always held a bit of mystic for me.  I see them in the produce department of the grocery store, stop to admire them, and then walk right by.  I’m a little intimidated by them.

Well, that has come to an end officially starting now, because I actually broke down and bought a bunch.  Now what do I make with them?

Leeks are like green onions on steroids.  They smell like green onions, but more mild.  I talked to the produce manager and she said to choose leeks that have not formed a big bulb and do not have a hard “stalk” thing in the middle of the green tops as these would have a more pungent taste.

So, I chose a nice straight leek that felt fresh and had no tough stalk in the middle.  She also told me to store it in the fridge until I was ready to use it, being sure to leave it as is – not trimming it or cutting it – and wrapping it in plastic because leeks will smell up the refrigerator and the food in it if they are left unwrapped.

Now that I have actually purchased leeks, I’m wondering what I should do with it?  I know I could probably use it in anything that I would use an onion in, but I’d like to try something a bit different.  I’ve heard of Leek Soup, and I’m wondering if anyone has a good tried-and-true recipe for it.

I’d love to hear your ideas!

Make all your favorite restaurant dishes at home with the Copy Cat Cookbook.

What Can I Make With Flax Seed Meal?

Filed under: Main — Susanne @ 7:52 pm

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about flax seeds.  Did you know that technically, flax seed is not a grain?  But, you can use flax seed meal like you would flour to make muffins and such.

The reason I’ve been studying flax seeds is because I want to eat healthier.  Well, apparently, flax seed is probably one of the most nutrient packed foods on the planet, loaded with fiber, antioxidants, and that good old omega-3 fatty acid.  Flax seed is also low in carbs, so if you are limiting your sugar and starch intake, you can use flax seed meal in your cooking without adding carbohydrates to your diet.

When I first started reading about flax seed, I thought it would be simple to add to my diet as a supplement.  Well, it’s not a magic pill.  Apparently, the flax seeds need to be ground into meal to make the “phytochemicals”, which are the things like antioxidants, available to your body.  Un-ground flax seeds will just pass through your body without leaving any of the nutritients.  And, the fiber does not exist in flax seed oil.  So, no supplement will do.

There are also benefits for people trying to lose weight.  Even when sticking to a strict diet, if you include foods made with flax seed meal, you will feel more satisfied after eating a meal.  This is because of the healthy fat and good fiber that flax seeds offer.

So, how can we include flax seeds in our diet?  It appears that the most important thing to know is that you should use flax seed meal in your cooking.  Grinding the seeds into meal “releases” the nutrients and makes them available to your body.  When you grind your flax seeds into meal, the meal will get rancid rather quickly, staying fresh in the freezer for only a week or two.  That’s why most folks choose to grind only what they need at the time.  However, you can store whole flax seeds up to a year in a cool, dark place in an airtight container – probably in the refrigerator.

Some people will use flax seed meal as an egg substitute in dishes that call for egg to add structure to the food, like meatloaf.  You can also sprinkle a tablespoon or two on hot cereal in the morning.  Other recipes call for flax seed meal to be used in the place of flour in quick breads or muffins.

As to the method of grinding the flax seeds into meal, a lot of folks have recommended the use of a coffee grinder.  I can see their point mostly because you don’t want to grind more than you’re going to use up right away.  So, unless I’m making a muffin recipe which calls for two cups of meal, grinding a few tablespoons for my cereal will probably work best in my coffee grinder.  When you grind them, just be sure you can’t feel any sharp edges leftover.  The flax seed meal should feel grainy, but not sharp.

Now, I’m wondering if anyone has cooked a lot, or even a little, with flax seed meal.  If you have, I’d love to hear your ideas about their best use, especially if you’ve used flax seed meal to replace eggs or flour.  Also, have you had any problems finding flax seeds?  I look forward to your input!

Make all your favorite restaurant dishes at home with the Copy Cat Cookbook.

What Can I Make With Maple Syrup?

Filed under: Breakfast Foods, Desserts — Susanne @ 1:50 pm

I’m on my last bottle of homemade maple syrup and I don’t want to use it on another batch of pancakes.  If you’ve ever had real maple syrup, you will understand why putting it on pancakes feels like a waste.  Don’t get me wrong – I love a big stack of pancakes with homemade maple syrup as much as the next person.  However, at some point, that beautiful golden real maple syrup should be honored with a special dish.

That is why I am in the process of searching for an “honorable” recipe for the last bottle of maple syrup in my pantry.

I am fortunate to have friends and family who get busy every spring to create this wonderful nectar from the sugar maple tree.  It’s a long, long, long process that yields this delicious treat.  Throughout the year, as I visit my family and friends, I am showered with gifts of maple syrup.  And, boy am I grateful!  There are usually about five or six nice big bottles in my kitchen.  I am so hooked on the real stuff now that even if we run out I won’t go and buy any maple syrup in the store.  Homemade maple syrup is THAT good and it tastes totally different from any of the factory produced stuff.

I’ll share a tried-and-true recipe that I’ve used often and with great success that highlights the homemade maple syrup.

Frosty Maple Loaf Cake

  • 1 angel food cake, loaf pan size
  • 6 Fig-Newton bars, crumbled up small
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 Tblsp margarine or butter
  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream
  • 1 cup whipped cream for topping (optional)

Cut the angel food cake loaf lengthwise in three even pieces.  Butter the insides of the loaf pan, or line with parchment paper so you can lift out the frozen cake, either way works.  Add the pieces to the loaf pan – one in bottom, two up each side.  Put the loaf pan in the freezer.

In a saucepan over medium low heat, stir cookie crumbles, syrup, and butter.  Stir until the butter melts and the mixture gets a little thicker.  Then, let it cool.
Put the ice cream into a big bowl and stir until it softens a little.
Add the cooled sauce to the softened ice cream by spooning it in and swirling it throughout the ice cream.
Pull the frozen cake out and spoon the sauce/ice cream mixture into the loaf pan.
Cover the loaf with plastic wrap and put back in the freezer overnight.
To serve, lift out by parchment paper, or dip the pan quickly in hot water and flip out onto a platter or serving plate.  Add whipped cream to top if you wish.

This recipe uses a whole cup of maple syrup.  It’s fun to make and kids love it!

Maple syrup is also the perfect sauce for salmon!  If you can get a hold of salmon where you are, making a simple maple syrup sauce for grilled salmon is a must.  It’s easy enough even without a recipe.  I just mix together maple syrup with a little Dijon mustard and a squeeze of lemon.  That’s about as simple as it gets.

Does anyone else have some good ideas for using a lot of maple syrup?  Do you get real maple syrup often?  And, better yet, do you actually make maple syrup?  I’d love to hear from you!

Make all your favorite restaurant dishes at home with the Copy Cat Cookbook.

What Can I Make With Plums?

Filed under: Fruits — Susanne @ 5:59 am

plum tree web sizeOh, the plums are so plentiful right now. We only have a few more months to enjoy them so I’m hoping I can find some great ways to use up some fresh plums.

I’m not much for making jellies and jams, although I have been known to make some pretty good ones. Plum jam is sort of a luxury, meaning we don’t usually buy it in the grocery store. Lately, if we have any in the house it’s because some benefactor was feeling generous to us. It’s delicious, but I’m thinking I want ideas that are somewhat more suitable for a main dish.

Plums are loaded with vitamin C which makes it a great fruit to add to your family’s diet as vitamin C has been proven to increase the absorption of iron into the body. So, besides the antioxidant values of vitamin C, you get an iron boost. I like plums because they’re sweet and juicy, but I guess the nutrition value is important as well!

When I did a little research into some of my old recipes and cookbooks, certain recipes keep coming up, or a variation of those recipes. There are many mouth-watering pictures of roasted pork with different plum and apple combination glazes. I even found one beef stew that had plums in it!

A dessert recipe that I particularly like is a simple one that I remember from long ago. We took plums and chopped them up, put them in a pan with just enough apple cider to just cover them, and brought them to a slow simmer. Once the flavors were all cooked together, we grated a tart apple in there and added a little ground cinnamon. Then we let that simmer together for a while until it got thicker. The sauce was served hot over vanilla ice cream. Yummy!

Does anyone have a particularly unusual or delicious dish that they’ve made with plums? I would love to see what you come up with.

Make all your favorite restaurant dishes at home with the Copy Cat Cookbook.

What Can I Make With Almond Flour?

Filed under: Breads, Nuts — Susanne @ 7:05 am

If you’ve seen a lot of recipes lately that call for almond flour or almond meal, you may be wondering what it is.  I know I was.  When I looked into low-carb diet recipes, I came across a lot of these types of recipes.  As it turns out, almond flour is typically used as a replacement for wheat flour or cornmeal, both high in carbohydrates.

Almond flour can be used as a coating for fish or chicken instead of flour or cornmeal.  However, almond flour is not a substitute for regular flour when used in bread that forms a real dough because you can’t knead it.  It is suitable, however for quick-breads like muffins and other “mix and pour” type  breads.

You can find almond flour or almond meal in health food stores or many larger grocery stores.  You can also make your own at home pretty simply.  To make almond flour, buy the blanched almonds without the skin and, starting with small amounts in your blender or food processor, pulse until the texture becomes like cornmeal.  If you use whole almonds or blanched almonds with the skins on, you’ll make almond meal.  Either way, the finished flour or meal will resemble cornmeal more than it will resembles regular wheat flour, and they can really be used interchangeably.  If you blend the almonds too long, you’ll end up with almond butter, which is good, too, so just set it aside and try again.

What to make with almond flour or meal?  I guess my favorite is coating fish and chicken.  The results are very different from your typical flour coating.  It has a nutty, of course, taste that you won’t have from wheat flour or cornmeal.  Be careful when you cook your fish or chicken though as the almond flour will tend to burn a bit faster.  I choose a lower oven setting when I’m oven frying with almond flour coatings.

Other than coating fish or chicken, or turning into a muffin recipe, what would you do with almond flour?  It seems pretty versatile, so I would love to hear your opinions about how to use this fun food!

Make all your favorite restaurant dishes at home with the Copy Cat Cookbook.

What Can I Make With Molasses?

Filed under: MISC, Prepared Foods — Susanne @ 6:17 am

Molasses is that thick, dark, sweet, and tangy sweetener you probably recognize as an ingredient in homemade baked beans.  Or, you may just know it by the expression “as slow as molasses in January.”  If that’s the case, it’s high time you were introduced.

Dark molasses, or more specifically, blackstrap molasses, is a byproduct after the third boiling of sugar syrup during the refining process.  It’s what’s left after the sugar has been crystallized, which we know as granulated sugar.

Blackstrap molasses is a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals.  Probably one of the only sweeteners that is actually good for you!  It’s a very good source of iron, calcium, potassium, as well as those lesser thought of nutrients we need, and the much sought after vitamin B6.   When you look for molasses, be sure to look for unsulphured molasses to get a cleaner, clearer taste.  You can store it unopened for up to a year.  Once you open your bottle of molasses, you can store it in the refrigerator (although it gets pretty slow pouring) or in a cool pantry for about six months.

When I was little, molasses was a staple in our house.  We liked it poured on a thick slice of crusty bread as a nice after school treat, or poured over our oatmeal in the morning instead of sugar or honey.  Molasses is quite sharp tasting and could be an acquired taste, but it is sweet, so most youngsters will grow to like it.

Other than just enjoying on bread or cereal, or for making baked beans, there are many really nice recipes that use molasses.  Molasses is often used in barbecue sauces, pulled pork sandwich recipes, gingersnap cookies, and many other foods that require an extra sweet and tangy flavor.  You can even just grab a bottle and use it as is to baste chicken or meat for a very colorful and rich flavor.  If you’re feeling very adventurous, you can even make your own homemade Worcestershire sauce with molasses!

Does anyone have any ideas about what to make with blackstrap molasses?  Have you ever just eaten it on bread as a treat, or is my family the only crazy one?  I’d love to hear from you!

Make all your favorite restaurant dishes at home with the Copy Cat Cookbook.

What Can I Make With Raisins?

Filed under: Fruits, Snacks — Susanne @ 6:32 am

This may seem like a pretty simple question, since there are so many ways to eat raisins, but I’d like a few new ideas.  Since I get tired of baking sweets with them, and putting them in cereal, and just snacking on them, I guess it’s time I learned a few good recipes to use them up in a main dish or salad.

One way I have used raisins in something other than sweets is one of those fabulous potluck salads you all have probably partaken in at some point in your life.  It’s the combination “Broccoli-Raisins-Bacon- Salad.”  Let me see if I can find my recipe.  That would be a good start.

Okay, here we are with one of my concoctions:

Crunchy Broccoli and Raisin Salad

  • 4 cups chopped fresh broccoli (see * below)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup onion (depending on how strong it is)
  • 1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts
  • 8 to 10 slices of bacon, diced then browned until crisp
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds (salted)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 Tbsp cider vinegar

Put the first ingredients in a big bowl and toss together well.  (* I normally put my broccoli in the microwave for just a few seconds, then let cool in the refrigerator.  Blanching them quickly like that brings out the flavor, but be sure you don’t let them get soft!)

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar until well blended.  Pour the dressing over the salad, mix together until everything is coated, then cover lightly and put in the refrigerator until all the flavors come together, at least a couple hours.

That’s my simple salad to use up a whole cup of raisins.  Another thought which comes from a fond memory of a restaurant meal from some years ago, is for a raisin sauce to serve over salmon.  That was very good, but I’ve never attempted to make it.

Do you have any favorite recipes in which you use up some raisins?  Even recipes like the raisin sauce which actually features raisins as the main ingredient would be nice.  I’d sure like to hear from you!

Make all your favorite restaurant dishes at home with the Copy Cat Cookbook.

What Can I Make With Canned Peas?

Filed under: Canned Vegetables, Vegetables — Susanne @ 7:39 am

My husband loves canned peas.  I, on the other hand, really don’t.  When it comes time to stock our pantry, my husband will inevitably buy a half dozen cans of peas.  At some point, I have to figure out a way to cook these canned peas that will please us both.  Yes, I’ve asked him to stop buying them, but he really does like them, a lot.

There must be some dishes that are more suitable for canned peas than, say, for frozen peas.  I remember a casserole, or ‘hot dish” as we called them, in our elementary school cafeteria that probably used canned peas.  That hot dish was pretty tasty.  As a matter of fact, I remember it quite fondly.  It was one of those casseroles that I might use to clean up a lot of leftovers.

The ingredients are simple enough.  Of course, start with ground beef that’s browned.  Add onion, tomatoes of some kind, cooked noodles, maybe some corn, then a can or two of some cream of any kind of soup, some cheese, and, of course, a can of peas.  Simple, yes, but every bit a “comfort food.”

If you happen to remember this type of “hot dish” or you have any other suggestions for what to make with canned peas, I’d love to hear your opinions and suggestions.

Make all your favorite restaurant dishes at home with the Copy Cat Cookbook.

What Can I Make With Ripe Olives?

Filed under: Canned, Condiments — Susanne @ 7:49 am

Ripe olives, also known as black olives, are an odd food.  People often have either a strong like or a strong dislike for them.  One youngster I know loves them and will eat them right out of the can.  I made pizza for her the other day and all she wanted for toppings was cheese and black olives.  What was left in the can after making the pizza, she placed, as tradition calls for, on top of each finger tip and ate them just like that, plucking them off her fingers.

I, too, can sit down with a whole can of black olives and they will disappear.  However, I would prefer to find other ways to serve them.  There is a rather unique sandwich spread that I remember from some time ago, but it is a bit peculiar, so may not appeal to a lot of people.  You simply mix together some chopped black olives, chopped pecans, and cream cheese.  Spread it on small pieces of a sturdy whole wheat, cocktail rye, or pumpernickel bread.  This makes an excellent hors d’ oeuvre for a fancy gathering, but your kids probably will not like it for lunch.

One splendid dish I made the other night, however, turned out to be a family pleasing meal.  In a glass baking dish, I placed frozen fillets of tilapia fish, drizzled a little olive oil on top, sprinkled with thyme, oregano, basil, salt, and black pepper, poured on one can of diced tomatoes, added about a half clove of minced garlic, and sprinkled a generous portion of sliced black olives on top.  I covered the dish with tin foil, and baked in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes.  This baked fish turned out very good and had a Mediterranean flavor and look.  Very simple and very yummy!

If you’ve cooked with black olives a lot, or have used them in different salads or sandwiches, or any other dishes, I’d really like to hear from you!

Make all your favorite restaurant dishes at home with the Copy Cat Cookbook.

What Can I Make With Leftover Fish?

Filed under: Seafood — Susanne @ 6:36 am

When we grill out in the summer, we don’t like wasting the heat of the grill, so we always grill a little extra food while the grill is going.  One food in particular that we use this general rule for is fish.  Fish cooks best on a very hot grill, but it cooks for a short period of time.  So, by the time the grill heats up, you’ve used a lot of fuel or charcoal for a cooking process that only takes a few minutes.  Therefore, we always fill our grill to the max with fish.

Of course, this leaves us with leftover fish.  This is great because we love cold fish in green salads, as well as mixed up with a little mayonnaise and turned into a spread for sandwiches.  Using up our leftover fish has never been a real problem, but I sure would like a little variety!

Because seafood is plentiful where we live, I have developed one good bisque recipe that I’ve used over and over again.  I’ll share it here for you.  I apologize for the vague amounts, as I’ve never actually written this down.

Fish & Vegetable Bisque

  • 1 or 2 slices bacon, diced up
  • 1/2 a yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 a green pepper, diced
  • 1/2 a sweet red pepper, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup, more or less, of fish, shrimp, or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup cooked fish, flaked up
  • add salt and black pepper to taste
  • sprinkle red pepper flakes

Saute the bacon and all the vegetables together in sauce pan until vegetables are just starting to get tender.  Pour in the stock, cover and simmer until the vegetables have cooked completely.  Then add fish, salt, black pepper, and if desired, sprinkle a little red pepper flakes in.  You can double or even triple this recipe, depending on how much fish you have to use up.

Does anyone have some suggestions as to what else we can make with our leftover fish?  Are there some really good layered salads or even casseroles that use cooked fish?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Make all your favorite restaurant dishes at home with the Copy Cat Cookbook.
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