Saturday, 21 September 2013

Quick Tip: Ricotta for Cream Cheese

Have a recipe that calls for cream cheese but you're either not a fan of it or you don't have it on hand? Well, ricotta cheese makes a very good substitute. Just drain off the moisture and substitute in your recipe 1 for 1.

Mind you, you have to have ricotta on hand to substitute... :)

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Shepherd's Pie Potato Skins

When you get right down to it, how can you not love Shepherd's Pie? It's always been one of my favourites because it's mostly beef, potatoes, and cheese! Now, what could possibly make it better? Well... How about cooking it in the potato skins? Oh yeah...

So, here's what you need:

  • 2 large baking potatoes, baked as desired (BBQ is nice...)
  • 4 tsp butter (divided)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 cups beef or vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp summer savoury
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of grated cheddar (I prefer old cheddar for the tangy flavour)
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

Melt half the butter in a non-stick, deep, frying pan at medium heat. Add in the onion and cook for about 3-4 minutes, until soft. Add the ground beef, increase heat to medium-high, and cook an additional 3-4 minutes or until beef has browned. Add in the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, summer savoury, and oregano. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, and gently cook (should bubble) for about 15 to 20 minutes or until sauce has thickened. With a few minutes to go, stir in basil, salt, and pepper.

While the beef mixture is cooking, cut the potatoes in half length-wise and scoop out the interior into a small bowl, making sure you leave the skin of the potato intact as this will be your dish.

Mash the potato in the bowl with remaining butter, salt, and pepper (to taste). Divide the beef mixture into the potato skins.

Cover the tops of the potatoes with the mashed and then top with the grated cheese.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a nice golden brown. Serve and enjoy! This feeds two.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Quick Tip: Fresh vs Dried Herbs

While I generally prefer to use fresh herbs over dried herbs, that's not always possible, and dried really is okay. However, unless a recipe states to use fresh, it is most likely dried variant that is the ingredient being listed. In general, I use a 3 to 1 ratio of fresh to dried in measuring. For example, 1 tsp of dried oregano equates to 3 tsps of fresh oregano.

Now, for those of you who like to grow your herbs in your garden (like me), you can dry them yourself for use in the winter. These will taste much better than the five year old bottle in your spice cabinet, truly. So, to dry them, all you really need is a way to produce warm air flow around the herbs. You can do this with dedicated dehydration machines (active and passive) or with a convection oven with the door propped open at 140 to 160 degrees (drying time varies with herb and quantity, so keep an eye on them). Enjoy!