Kate's Cuisine

Dec 07 2017

Santa Veggie Tray

A tray full of veggies shaped like Santa

Having a big holiday party this year? Don’t you dare buy one of those prepackaged veggie trays that are overpriced and well, let’s face it, a little boring. Not when you can get super creative and make a Santa veggie tray instead! This is one that I did for a family gathering and it got lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ as people gathered around wanting to take a picture of it before pieces started going missing. Little did I know then that there are tons of holiday-inspired veggie tray ideas out there. I’m hoping to do a Christmas tree one next for you guys! They’re so dead simple, and really spruce up the food table at any holiday bash.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly $0.97
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips $0.71
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets $1.77
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes $1.99
  • 2 olives, whole or slices $0.05

Total cost $5.49

Instructions:

1.) Place the cucumbers in the middle of a large serving platter. These will be Santa’s face.

2.) Arrange the red pepper into a triangle on top of the cucumbers. You want to make it look like a hat. Leave out one thin strip of the red pepper.

3.) Arrange most of the cauliflower florets below the cucumbers to form Santa’s beard. Then place some just above the cucumbers to make up the trim of Santa’s hat.

4.) Fill in the bottom of the platter, below the cauliflower, with cherry tomatoes to look like Santa’s suit.

5.) For the pom-pom on Santa’s hat, you have a couple of options. You can fill a small ramekin with Ranch dressing and place it at the top of the red pepper triangle; this is what most people do. Or, if you’re like me and the only ramekin you had was far too big, you can place a large piece (or a couple of small pieces) of cauliflower there instead.

6.) Place the small reserved piece of bell pepper in the middle of Santa’s beard to form his mouth and place the olives at the top of the cucumbers to make his eyes.

7.) Serve and enjoy!

Dec 01 2017

Double Potato Soup

Double potato soup garnished with bacon, sour cream, and green onions

One of my very good friends that I’ve known since public school helped me make this soup when I went home last for a visit. As we were making it she told me that she had made potato soup before, but had never considered adding a little bit of sweet potato to it. So, I considered if she hadn’t (and she likes to cook), what are the chances that some of my readers had never considered it before either? Probably pretty good, right? Just like this soup!

The sweet potato brings an extra kick to this soup that gives it so much more complexity and tastiness than regular potato soup. And, it’s super easy to whip up. We did it in about an hour while we giggled and drank wine, so I’m guessing it could be made even quicker than that!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil $0.22
  • 1 onion, diced $0.47
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced $0.44
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced $0.34
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced $0.03
  • 4 cups of chicken stock (or veggie stock to make it vegetarian) $2.00
  • 2 cups of water Free, with your water bill!
  • 3 tablespoons thyme leaves, roughly chopped $0.50
  • 5 large Russet potatoes, peeled and diced $1.45
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced $0.50
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese $1.50
  • Salt, to taste $0.01
  • Pepper, to taste $0.01
  • Bacon bits, for garnish $3.24
  • Sour cream, for garnish $1.29
  • Green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish $0.68

Total cost $10.68
Cost per serving $1.78

Directions:

1.)Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When hot add the onion, carrots, and celery and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes until the vegetables start to become fragrant. Add the garlic, stir, and cook for another 30 seconds.

2.) Add the chicken stock and water, turn heat to high, and bring to a boil.

3.) Once boiling, add the potato and sweet potato and allow it to boil again before turning heat down to a simmer. Let simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes, until all potatoes are tender.

4.) Remove pot from the heat and then blend everything together with an immersion blender until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, this can be done in a regular blender; just remember to blend it in batches so your blender doesn’t explode.

5.) If the soup has cooled some, return it to the burner over low heat and allow it to warm through again. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if it needs more seasoning.

6.) Ladle the potato soup into bowls and garnish with bacon bits, sour cream, and green onions.

7.) Serve and enjoy!

Nov 20 2017

Chocolate Cream Pie

Chocolate Cream Pie in Pie Plate

I feel as though we haven’t talked about dessert in a little while around here. Which is weird, because I love dessert. And I’ve also been making it a lot lately, which is also weird. A baker I am not, typically. But when Thanksgiving rolled around last month, we were all headed to the in-laws and I was asked to bring dessert. And my mother-in-law gave me a challenge without even knowing it – making chocolate cream pie.

I’ve always loved chocolate cream pie. I’ve always admired the way it stands so high in display cases and when it arrives on your plate, has the tiniest bit of jiggle still left in it. But making it? Really? Turns out, when someone asks you to make chocolate cream pie, all you have to do is take a deep breath and believe in yourself. I wouldn’t say it’s any more difficult than lemon meringue pie and I’ve made that plenty of times without breaking a sweat. Plus, when you make it yourself there are all those good chocolate-covered spatulas and whisks lying around that you get to snack on while you clean up!

The recipe does call for the pie to be topped with whipped cream and rest assured, we did do just that once we got to the Thanksgiving destination. With an hour car ride though, you don’t want to risk it melting all over the pie or flying right off of it (which was in fact, one of the fears we had with the meringue on a lemon pie we also brought). So let’s not put this off any longer than we already have. On to the chocolate cream pie!

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • 16 Oreo cookies, with filling, processed into crumbs $1.91
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled $0.26

For the chocolate cream:

  • 2 1/2 cups half and half $1.55
  • Pinch of salt $0.01
  • 1/3 cup white granulated sugar, divided $0.06
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch $0.54
  • 6 egg yolks, at room temperature $0.30
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into 6 pieces $0.78
  • 1 (12 ounce) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips $1.99
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract $0.22

For the whipped cream topping:

  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream $2.29
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons icing sugar $0.03
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract $0.33

Total cost $10.27
Cost per slice $1.28

Directions:

1.) Start by making the crust. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the Oreo cookie crumbs with the melted butter in a medium bowl, tossing with a fork until all the crumbs are moistened. Pour the crumb mixture into a 9″ pie plate and press them evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan to form a crust. I find it easiest to start at the centre of the pie plate and work your way out and up the sides. Refrigerate the crust for 20 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes until the crust is fragrant and firm. Cool on a wire rack.

2.) To start making the chocolate cream filling, bring the half and half, salt, and 3 tablespoons of sugar to a slight simmer in a medium-sized saucepan. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon to melt the sugar and ensure the cream doesn’t burn. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining sugar and cornstarch.

3.) Whisk the egg yolks thoroughly in a medium-sized bowl. Add the cornstarch/sugar mixture and whisk until the mixture is glossy and the sugar has begun to dissolve.

4.) When the half and half mixture has reached a slight simmer, use a ladle to remove about 1/2 cup and add to the egg mixture, whisking vigorously to temper the eggs. Then whisk the entire egg yolk mixture back into the half and half mixture. Whisk constantly for about 30 more seconds, until 3 or 4 bubbles have broken out on the surface and the mixture is thick and glossy.

5.) Remove the half and half mixture from the heat and whisk in the butter, one piece at a time, until incorporated. Add the chocolate chips and whisk until melted, scraping the bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula to fully incorporate all ingredients. Stir in the vanilla then immediately pour the entire filling through a fine-mesh colander over a bowl. Using the same rubber spatula, pour the filling into the baked and cooled crust and spread into an even layer. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling and refrigerate the pie until the filling is cold and firm, at least 3 hours.

6.) When ready to serve, use a hand mixer to beat the cream on low speed until it begins to froth. Increase the speed to medium for about 1 minute and then turn the speed to high. Continue beating until soft peaks form. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and continue to beat for another minute or so, until stiff peaks form. Pipe or spread the whipped cream over the chilled chocolate cream filling.

7.) Serve and enjoy!

Nov 07 2017

Chinese Chicken Balls (with Sweet and Sour Sauce!)

Chicken ball being dipped into sweet and sour sauce

There’s a reason you’ll never see a shellfish recipe on this site. I’m highly allergic, and I’m also very paranoid about my allergy (given that it could kill me and all). And while I usually get by okay with my allergy, it does keep me from going to certain places; namely, Chinese restaurants. There’s just too much of it strewn around and even if the kitchen is very careful not to cross-contaminate, I just can’t fully trust that they haven’t overlooked oyster sauce or fish sauce in one of their dishes. And even that little bit could quite literally have fatal consequences for me.

But I love Chinese food, and sometimes I miss it (in my younger days, I was a bit more cavalier about my allergy). So when a craving strikes, I have no problem whipping up a huge feast of egg rolls, chow mein, and other Chinese food goodies for me and my family. And when I do it, my family and I still have tons of leftovers, just as if we had ordered enough for 20 people. I mean, if I’m going to do it, I’m going to make sure my freezer’s stocked too.

Last week, that craving did strike and I made the usual fare, with one exception. For the first time ever, I made Chinese chicken balls and man, they were good. I was most looking forward to the chow mein, but it was really the chicken balls that stole the show. And everyone agreed that they were the best part of the meal. Sadly, I only have four left in my freezer. They are delicious though, and much easier to make than I thought they would be.

I even made the classic sweet and sour sauce to go along with them, but I warn you. This does not look anything like the sweet and sour sauce you’ll get at your favourite Chinese restaurant. Probably because I didn’t put a ton of red food colouring in it. But although it doesn’t look like the sauce, it definitely still tastes like it. And it can simmer on the stove while you fry the chicken balls, or be made ahead of time for those that like it cooled a bit before they start dipping. Whatever way you choose to go, it’s all so good. These are definitely going to show up on the table the next time my Chinese food craving strikes!

Ingredients for the sweet and sour sauce:

  • 1/2 cup ketchup $1.49
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce $0.02
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar $0.18
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar $0.20
  • 1 cup white sugar $0.19
  • 3/4 cup cold water Free, with your water bill!
  • 4 tablespoons corn starch $1.08

Ingredients for the chicken balls:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour $0.14
  • 1 cup cornstarch $1.59
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder $0.02
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda $0.04
  • 1 teaspoon salt $0.01
  • 1 1/3 cup cold water Free, with your water bill!
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil $0.06
  • 4 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces $9.76
  • Oil, for deep-frying $3.30

Total cost $18.08
Cost per serving $3.01

Directions:

1.) To make the sweet and sour sauce, combine the ketchup, soy sauce, white vinegar, brown sugar, and white sugar in a small saucepan. In a cup or bowl whisk the cold water with the cornstarch until smooth. Whisk the cornstarch mixture vigorously into the ketchup mixture. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and whisk constantly until the sauce has thickened to the desired consistency (it should be very thick).

2.) To make the chicken balls, combine the flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Add in water and sesame oil and stir well to fully combine, being sure to scrape up from the bottom of the bowl to get any flour and cornstarch that may have settled. Continue stirring until the entire mixture is smooth.

3.) Add the chicken pieces to the flour and cornstarch mixture and stir well again to ensure all pieces are coated in the batter.

4.) Using a deep-fryer or a deep Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

5.) Frying a few pieces at a time, remove the chicken from the batter, ensuring it is still completely covered in batter, and gently drop into the hot oil. Fry for 3-4 minutes until all of the chicken balls are golden brown. Remove using a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and season with salt, if desired. Repeat with remaining pieces of chicken. If any of the chicken balls start to cool after being cooked while you fry the remaining chicken balls, place them in a 300 degree oven and they’ll stay warm and crisp.

6.) Serve the chicken balls with the sweet and sour sauce on the side for dipping, and enjoy!

Nov 02 2017

Avocado Toast

Avocado on Rye Toast

I was born in the late 70s, a time when the Internet as we know it was still a distant dream for a bunch of tech guys trying to connect the entire world. So no, I’m not a Millennial. And while I do know a few that I absolutely adore, I have to admit that I’ve also been a bit snarky towards them on occasion. But when they start taking an interest in food, I start taking a bigger interest in them. And I’m very thankful for their Avocado Toast.

Yes, I realize people were likely smearing avocados on toast long before there was Instagram to post their pics to, but I think we can all agree that it was the Millennials that really made it a trend, filling our feeds with countless pics of gorgeous Avocado Toast. And now, I get to be those one of those people! And not only is Avocado Toast very pretty to look at, it’s also delicious and takes only a few minutes to pull together. So thanks, Millennials, for the delicious snack!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large ripe avocado $0.80
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime $0.50
  • 1 shallot, finely diced $0.37
  • 1/4 cup corn, fresh or frozen and thawed $0.58
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped $0.10
  • Salt, to taste $0.01
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste $0.01
  • 2 pieces rye bread $0.32
  • 1 clove garlic, cut in half $0.01
  • 1 small tomato, diced $0.28
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste $0.01
  • Olive oil, to taste $0.05

Total cost $3.04

Directions:

1.) Using a fork, mash the avocado in a small bowl. Add the juice and zest of the lime, shallot, corn, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine all ingredients.

2.) Toast the rye bread. After it’s been toasted but is still warm, rub the half of garlic onto the bread. Spoon the avocado mixture onto the bread and smooth it out. Add the diced tomato and crushed red pepper flakes. Drizzle everything with olive oil.

3.) Serve and enjoy!

Oct 30 2017

Halloween Hot Dog Mummies

Halloween Mummy Hot Dogs

I have to admit something. I don’t like Halloween all that much. I didn’t even like it that much as a kid, but all the candy really did seem to help. Today, I still turn to food on this holiday and while I may not be pulling out a pillowcase and hoping to fill it with loot, I do like to scour for special Halloween recipes and create something that I normally wouldn’t. This year, these Halloween hot dog mummies were perfect. And even though we didn’t actually eat them on Halloween, I think another batch might be in order for the big night tomorrow. Not only are they cute and easy to make, they also take just a few minutes to pull together. So even if you have to make last-minute alterations to costumes or finish off that cute clown’s makeup, you’ll still have lots of time to get out the door and hit the neighbourhood.

Ingredients:

  • 8 hot dogs $3.99
  • 1 (8 ounce) can of Pillsbury crescent rolls $1.99
  • Mustard for the eyes $0.10

Total cost $6.08
Cost per serving $1.52

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.) Unwrap the crescent rolls and join two together. Press the seams together. Repeat this step until you have four rectangles.

3.) Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, slice each rectangle lengthwise into ten thin strips.

4.) Wrap five strips around each hot dog, stretching it lightly and pressing each strip into another as you’re done wrapping. Crisscross the dough as you wrap it, and layer it to really make it look like a mummy.

5.) Using your finger, separate the dough at the top of the hot dog to make room for the eyes.

6.) When all the hot dogs have been wrapped, place them into the oven and bake for 13 – 15 minutes until the dough is cooked through and golden.

7.) Remove the mummies from the oven and place mustard in a small bowl. Dip a toothpick into the mustard and then use it to place two dots in the space you created to make eyes.

8.) Serve and enjoy!

Oct 20 2017

Ranch Dressing

Ranch dressing in ramekin

Today wraps up all the posts on salad dressings and spice mixes, and next week we’ll get back to actual dishes and entrees. But, I saved the very best for last - Ranch dressing, a go-to for many people, including mine. I mean, when a dressing not only works as a dressing but can be used to dip wings, pizza crust, and even sandwiches, you know it’s got to be good. And when you make it at home from scratch, it’s even better.

This Ranch dressing is very similar to the garlic dip I posted last week, and there’s a reason for that since I was trying to make Ranch dressing and it just happened to turn into something a little more garlicky than Ranch calls for. But after tinkering with it some and making some key changes, namely adding sour cream, using buttermilk, and getting rid of the garlic entirely, it did transform into Ranch dressing. And trust me my friends, it’s good!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise $1.44
  • 1/2 cup sour cream $0.65
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped $0.25
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped $0.06
  • 1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped $0.05
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce $0.06
  • 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar $0.01
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika $0.08
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper $0.01
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt $0.01
  • Dash of hot sauce $0.03
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup buttermilk $0.45

Total cost $3.10

Directions:

1.) Combine everything but the buttermilk in a medium-sized bowl so that everything is very well combined.

2.) Slowly add in the buttermilk, using only as much as you need for desired consistency.

3.) Store in an airtight container in the fridge or, serve and enjoy!

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