Daring Cooks – February 2012 – The Pattie!

 The Daring Cooks’ February 2012 challenge was hosted by Audax & Lis and they chose to present Patties for their ease of construction, ingredients and deliciousness! We were given several recipes, and learned the different types of binders and cooking methods to produce our own tasty patties!

Audax adapted a number of popular recipes to come up with the challenge patty recipes and Lisa has chosen to share two recipes – California Turkey Burger adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, and French Onion Salisbury Steak adapted from Cuisine at Home magazine.

So, this months cooking challenge is the Pattie!  Pause now, if you listen carefully you can hear my husband screaming and cheering for this.  Daring cooks, Audax and lis, he is giving this a standing ovation!  Ever the meat fan, the burger fan, I can hear his enthusiasm, and in his eyes I can see stacks and piles of homemade burgers, full of bacon and cheese and other endless combinations of heart stopping ingredients.   What have I gotten myself in to?

I must admit though, after seeing some of the  variations and knowing that I definitely could use patty preparation practice (thats almost a tongue twister), I was thrilled to attempt a variation that not only has ZUCCHINI in it, but it will finally give me an excuse to have prosciutto in the house!  So here we go,  Patty making a la Darrrrrrrring.

Zucchini, prosciutto & cheese fritters

Servings: makes about 8-10 two inch (five cm) fritters
Recipe can be doubled
adapted from http://smittenkitchen.com/2011/08/zucchini-fritters/
  • 2 medium sized Zucchini’s
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup grated cheese (A sharp cheddar was recommended)
  • 5 slices prosciutto, cut into small pieces
  • ½ cup all-purpose (plain) flour plus ½ teaspoon baking powder, sifted together
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chilli paste
  • 1 tsp black pepper, freshly cracked
  • 2 tbsp oil, for frying

Grate your zucchini in to a bowl, add the salt and set aside for 10 minutes atleast

pan fry your Prosciutto, when thats done, back to the zucchini. Squeeze drain it thru a cloth or towel. You'll get a lot of liquid. Discard the liquid

add all your ingredients together, leave the egg til last. Remember to lightly beat it. Then preheat the oil in your pan

Scoop some batter in to the hot pan, I used an ice cream scoop. Flatten them down. If they're too thick, they won't cook properly. Fry for 3-4 minutes, 3 was on the dot for me, and flip. Fry other side for 2-3 minutes

I pat dryed them with some clean paper towel after frying. I hate oil puddles on my plates. Then serve! Well recieved

So this challenge surprisingly went off without a hitch.  Not a single issue, not a cooking problem, nothing.  This was my first time trying prosciutto (I know, the horror) and to be honest cooking it made the room smell like dog food a little, but it tasted really good.  Like very salty bacon.

I think my next attempt will be more adventurous! Maybe i’ll succumb to my husbands demands and make some form of stuffed burger patty,  OR, I could always spite him by making the turkey karbonatky.


Apple Butter

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

I’ve always wanted to make apple butter.  Thinking about it I don’t know why I never did.  But this challenge gave me a reason to actually think about food preservation, which I am quite bad at.  By this, I mean a lot of food in our house goes to waste.  My husband will pack up something and shove it in the back of the fridge where no one sees it until its green,  or we’ll open a can of something and not necessarily need the entire can and that goes to waste as well.  If I can figure out how to mason jar some of my own things, that will reduce waste of say, tomato sauce, or preserves which I could start creating myself as well.

Apple Butter

  • 1 bag of apples ( I used Gala, peeled, sliced, and seeds/stems removed)
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon

Wash apples well and remove stems. Cut apples into quarters or eighths and remove cores and peel.

Combine unpeeled apples and cider in 8-quart  saucepan. Cook slowly and stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook until apples are very soft (falling apart).  This took me about 15-20 minutes

Since I chopped, stemmed, seeded and peeled my apples I just then mashed them with my potato mashes until they were an apple sauce consistency, and then I went over it with a stick blender to puree it even better.

Combine pulp with Sugar and spices in an 8-quart  saucepan. Simmer over low heat, stirring frequently.

To test for doneness, spoon a small quantity onto a clean plate; when the butter mounds on the plate without liquid separating around the edge of the butter, it is ready for processing. Another way to test for doneness is to remove a spoonful of the cooked butter on a spoon and hold it away from steam for 2 minutes. It is done if the butter remains mounded on the spoon. After I determined it was done, I went over it with my stick blender again.

Pour contents into desired storage container or multiple containers. I filled five 8oz mason jars with this, one for the fridge, and 4 to be canned.

Then, comes the hot water canning!

Fill a nice big pot with water.  The pot has to be big enough to at least have an inch of water over the tops of the jars.  Place something at the bottom of the pot to reduce thermal shock.  I used a neatly folded tea towel but that ended up biting me in the butt upon removal.  But if you have something proper to remove the jars from the hot water with then you wouldn’t have the problem I did.   Put the lids in to a bath of warm water, about 180 degrees to loosen up the seal.   Then put on the jars, screw shut nice and tight.  Then warm up the water in your pot until its 180 degrees.  gently put the jars in the water and hit the heat!  Wait for the water to boil, once it starts boiling set the clock for 15 minutes, when thats done let it rest completely off heat for five minutes.  Its nice having a gas range for this like this.   Then remove them.  Do not tilk, or dust the water off the top of the lid or anything.  Place them still completely upright on another tea towel on the table and let sit for 12 -24 hrs.

I’m told if you’ve done it right you’ll hear a pop from the lid soon after removal from heat.   When I attempted to removed the jars from the water my grasping device accidently snagged a bit of the tea towel and all my jars fell over in the water.  I thought, immediate failure.    I continued anyways, put them on their resting spot, and I heard no popping.  I also would point out now that I have two young children. The level of noise within this household at all times is insanity so I could have just missed it because the lids have no air underneath them, and they’ve gone concave like my instructions tell me they will.  So we’ll see when I do the lift test tomorrow!

Daring Cooks August challenge: Pierogi’s!

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

I was super excited about the pierogi’s!  The amount of creativity I could put into this project made me so happy when I first read it, I sat down with a pad of paper and started brainstorming ideas.  What I particularly liked about this challenge was the optional challenge of providing a filling that represent our locales.   I’m from Toronto.  In Canada, we have the same things that are in regular polish pierogi’s; at least the ones I’ve eaten!  Prince Edward Island potatoes, Montreal smoked bacon, Canadian cheddar… Didn’t sound too exciting!  So, I made a long list of fillings that I would like to see, though I’m sure half of them don’t even exist.  After I created my list, I started the decision process of what I would actually make.   We are allowed to make either sweet, or savory pierogi’s, so I decided I wanted to try to make both.  I played it safe with the last cooking challenge, I’m going all the way for this one!

I went a little crazy for this, to be honest.  I ended up deciding I was going to attempt four different types of savoury, none that I’ve ever heard of before, and two sweet, because I love my dessert.  Here are my finalized choices.

Pierogi Dough

  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups  all-purpose  flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • About 1 cup lukewarm water

Place 2 cups flour in a large bowl or on a work surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into it, add the salt and a little lukewarm at a time.  Bring the dough together, kneading well and adding more flour or water as necessary. Cover the dough with a towel. You want a soft dough so let it rest 20 minutes.

On a floured work surface, roll the dough out thinly  cut with a 2-inch  round or glass. Spoon a portion (A teaspoon will do!) of the filling into the middle of each circle. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together. Gather scraps, re-roll and fill. Repeat with remaining dough until its all done.

Pierogi’s, as people who eat them know, freeze very well 9.5 out of 10 times so don’t worry that you’re making way too much, think of it as dinner for another night!

My friend made my pierogi dough and we had a bit of trouble with it! We couldn’t for the life of us flatten it enough , and then it was doughy after being cooked.

Crab Salad pierogi filling

  • Imitation crab meat (because I’m poor) chopped (about 1/3 of the package)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 ice cream scoops of mashed potato
  • 2 diced shallots
  • half a large carrot grated
  • Crab Seasoning

I basically went for a crab salad, inside a pierogi.   I omitted the mayonnaise because I didn’t think that it would do well in high heat, or being frozen/boiled/fried.

Final Verdict:  This pierogi was my friends favorite.  She loves crab, and the seasoning on it was just wonderful.  It was my second favorite.

Ground Pork and Apple pierogi filling

  • 1 lbs ground pork, cooked drained and dried and crumbled
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored, chopped
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 2 shallots chopped
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • salt/pepper to taste

When randomly thinking up this, I was thinking “well, people here love their pork, and apples are always said to be paired very well with pork.  I thought it sounded like it could work.

Final verdict:  This was AMAZING.  My friend didn’t give me an opinion on the pork because she doesn’t eat pork in general but me, and my kids all preferred the pork the best.  It was well cooked, and a bit sweet from the maple.  Definitely something I will make again!

Salmon Pierogi’s with dill sauce

  • 1 medium piece of salmon, cooked and flaked
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • the juice of half a lemon

Dill Sauce

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped cucumber
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill
  • 2 tsp minced fresh chives
  • 2 tsp minced green onion
  • salt and pepper to taste

My idea with the salmon was, that pierogi’s are eaten with sour cream.  Salmon is usually given a sour cream dill sauce as well so I can try to put the two together.  It sounds insane in my head but somehow it works.

Final verdict:  It was good.  In retrospect I should have added mashed potato to this one as well because it was just too fishy.  Otherwise it was good, and the sauce was nice with it.

fill, fold and fry

So all in all, this was a great experience for me.  Even if all the recipes I came up with failed, and failed hard, I had one helluva time coming up with all the ideas and creating it.  I even enjoyed the fact that I got to use my husband and my close friend as  food lab rats.

Daring Cooks July challenge : Nut Butters!

Chicken with pecan cream sauce!

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

I joined the Daring Cooks a few months ago but I’ve yet to actually recreate any recipe on site. I got the idea from a friend who started it, I thought it would be fun. It would give me kind of a personal challenge every month for my cooking so that I don’t settle in to a culinary rut. I was putting around their message boards today having seen their tag on random cooking blogs I Google and thought now is as good a time as any to get going! So my first challenge? Nut butters! I chose the pecan, because it is a soft nut and I do not have a food processor. Maybe if I’m good, Santa will bring me one this year. A soft nut, like pecans, have a chance in a regular kitchen blender. Something like an almond is too hard for a regular kitchen blender unless you have something heavy duty.

Nut butters are really easy to make it turns out.  Stick your nuts in a blender or food processor and just run it until you have the butter.  (atleast 1 1/2 to 2 cups of nuts people!)

my pecan nut butter

chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms

Pecan Cream:

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp Pecan butter
  • 1 cup (240 ml) water
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3 ml) salt, more as needed
  • 1 tbsp deglaze (water, white wine, whatever. optional)
  • 1/2  pound (225 g) egg noodles or pasta
  • 4  boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil, more as needed
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil, more as needed
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) finely chopped shallots
  • 1/2 pound (225 g) mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) fresh thyme leaves
  • Chopped pecans, (optional garnish)

Make the pecan cream, mix the nut butter with the salt and water  until smooth, set aside.

Cook noodles according to package instructions in salted water. Drain, rinse, and keep warm.

Sprinkle chicken with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken; sauté 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Cook the chicken in 2 batches, adding more oil if needed for second batch. Set aside cooked chicken on a clean plate, cover to keep warm.

Add deglazing liquid to pan if using and stir up any browned bits. If needed, add another teaspoon (5 ml) of oil (or more) to pan for sautéing the shallots and mushrooms. Sauté the shallots and mushrooms over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and starting to brown. Add fresh thyme to the pan. Stir in pecan cream; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 minutes till reduced slightly.

Slice chicken into thin strips. Divide the noodles among serving plates. Add a scoop of the mushroom pecan sauce on top of noodles. Lay sliced chicken on top. Garnish with fres

h thyme and/or a pinch of chopped pecans if you want to go all the way.

Now to make this quicker for me I bought the already pre-sliced raw chicken breast.  It also happened we are officially out of chicken and my husband won’t be home until I am finished cooking this so I had to run out with both children.  It is not fun walking through a grocery store with two kids, no car, and no cart! So the raw strips works out for now.