Kate's Cuisine

Jun 14 2017

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

A bowl loaded with loaded baked potato soup

This is a soup I used to make at the restaurant all the time because it’s so very easy and takes no time at all to pull together. The secret is to use leftover mashed potatoes. After that, all you really have to do is fry up some bacon, grate some cheese and add some stock. I’m not joking. It really is that easy. And if it’s too warm for soup in your part of the world right now, just remember that you won’t break a sweat while making it. So, balance.

Oh, and that spinach that’s included? I know loaded baked potatoes don’t usually come with spinach, but I had some in my fridge along with those leftover potatoes and I thought, why not boost the nutritional value a bit? If you don’t have any on hand, or you just don’t want to include it, it’s really not necessary.

    • 3 cups leftover mashed potatoes (or about 4 or 5 Russet potatoes, mashed) $1.25
    • 6 cups chicken stock $4.00
    • 1 sprig fresh thyme, chopped $0.25
    • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped $0.50
    • 6 strips bacon, chopped $3.24
    • 4 green onions, chopped, divided $0.68
    • 1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated, plus 1/2 cup $1.87
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, slightly chopped $2.22
  • Salt, to taste $0.01
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste $0.01

Total cost $14.03
Cost per serving $2.33

1.) Place mashed potatoes and chicken stock in a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring regularly, until the mixture is hot and the potatoes are nicely incorporated into the stock.

2.) While the soup is warming, fry the bacon in a pan until crisp. Drain on paper towels and add half of it to the soup. Add the thyme, rosemary, 1 cup of Cheddar cheese, 2 chopped green onions, and salt and pepper to taste.

3.) Bring the soup up to a boil then reduce and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, until all the flavours have married and the soup is piping hot. Add spinach, if using, and cook just until wilted.

4.) Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with remaining bacon bits, shredded Cheddar cheese, and chopped green onions.

5.) Serve and enjoy!

Jun 05 2017

How to Make the Perfect Burger

The perfect burger

The weather hasn’t been all that cooperative for those of us around these parts that would like to start grilling, but that hasn’t stopped us either. And they say that sunnier days are in the forecast – hopefully for many months to come – so that means the grills are just getting warmed  up! With that in mind, let’s take a minute to talk about what actually makes a perfect burger.

It’s a subject of much debate, but to me, a burger needs to be juicy, not overly seasoned, and without a lot of binding agents. The meat really should speak for itself, although I do find a couple additions are necessary. The perfect burger can’t be as flat as a pancake, but it can’t be so large I find I have a hard time eating it either. And of course, it needs to stay together from the time it’s shaped to the time it makes it to the bun, otherwise you may as well have just browned ground beef in a pan.

Here are some tips and opinions I’ve picked up along my burger-making way. Sometimes I agree with the pros, sometimes I don’t.

  • Start with the right kind of meat. Ground beef is the obvious choice for most burgers, and it has to have enough fat content to keep the burger from drying out while cooking. I don’t have a butcher I see regularly, and I don’t own a meat grinder, so I just pick up a package of regular ground beef, content that is has the fat content I need.
  • Don’t go crazy with seasonings. I used to fill my burgers with seasonings like onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and Worcestershire sauce, but it’s a practice I’ve stopped. Like a good steak, I now find that burgers really do taste best when the meat is largely left alone.
  • Use eggs. I find one egg to a  pound of meat is enough to keep the burgers together while they’re cooking. Bobby Flay is a true purist and argues time and time again against adding anything – even eggs – to the meat. I respectfully disagree.
  • Don’t use breadcrumbs. It’s a burger, not a meatloaf. Breadcrumbs have no place in burgers.
  • Mix the meat, but don’t over mix the meat. Mixing the meat is really just to incorporate the egg and get everything to come together. As soon as it’s done that, stop mixing. Over-mixed meat means tough burgers.
  • Weigh the burgers so that they’re about 5 to 6 ounces each. Grab a small handful, place it on a scale and add or take away meat as necessary. Shape it into a patty about 1/4″ thick.
  • Once the patty has been formed, make an indent in the center with your thumb. This is another tip from Bobby Flay, and one I happen to agree with. This will prevent “softball burgers” and will also prevent the burger from shrinking.
  • Place burgers in the freezer for half an hour before cooking. This will help them firm up, reducing the chance that they’ll fall apart, especially on an outdoor grill.
  • Preheat an indoor or outdoor grill, cast iron pan or other skillet over high heat. Allow it to get very hot before placing burgers on.
  • Drizzle the burgers with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Place onto the grill or skillet.
  • Let the burgers cook for about four minutes per side for a medium cook on the meat, about 6 minutes per side for well done.
  • Only flip the meat once. Letting the meat cook will help form a crust, which will prevent the meat from breaking up and falling in between the slats, or breaking up in the pan.
  • Add as many toppings as you’d like! Like tacos, the toppings are one of the best parts!

May 24 2017

Beet and Arugula Salad

Beet and Arugula Salad

It was the long weekend this past weekend. It was Victoria Day and Brent had yesterday off too, so although it’s Wednesday I feel as though I’m just getting back into the swing of things for the week. But, point being, it was the long weekend this past weekend. And I feel as though I ate my way through it.

There were burgers, both beef and chicken, there were Club sandwiches piled high, and there was pulled pork and poutine. All of this, plus assorted chips and other snacks, scattered over the course of four days. We ate and and ate, and then ate some more. Now it’s Wednesday already and it’s time to get back on track. And it all starts now, with lunchtime.

What’s needed is something light, something healthy, and something that doesn’t skimp on the delicious. Something that I whipped up last week for lunch too, a quick Beet and Arugula Salad.

  • 3 beets, cooked and thinly sliced $0.75
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced $0.47
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar $0.01
  • 1 teaspoon salt $0.01
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil $0.11
  • 4 cups fresh arugula $1.25
  • 1/2 cup roasted and salted cashews $0.62
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese $0.72
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar $0.33
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder $0.26
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder $0.33
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard $0.03
  • 1 teaspoon sugar $0.01
  • 1 teaspoon salt $0.01
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper $0.01
  • 1/2 cup olive oil $0.91

Total cost $5.83
Cost per serving $1.94

1.) Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the onion slices in a small bowl along with 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Lay the beets on a baking sheet and sprinkle onions on top. This step is really just to soften the onions and bring out some of their sweetness while just kissing the beets with heat. When oven is hot place beets and onions in and bake for about 10 minutes.

2.) Place arugula on a large platter. When slightly cooked, add the beets and the onion slices. Sprinkle cashews and feta cheese over top of the salad.

3.) In a measuring cup or mason jar, combine the white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Whisk well to incorporate and then slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup olive oil to incorporate and emulsify. Tate and adjust seasoning if necessary and then drizzle over the beet and arugula salad.

4.) Serve and enjoy!

May 16 2017

Butterscotch Pie

Butterscotch Pie

Can you believe I have not posted a dessert recipe on this site in 4 months? Okay, there were some Easter goodies last month, but no actual dessert since that pretty cool tie-dye cake back in January. So, I thought it was time to remedy that and post something sweet and delicious!

To be honest however, that wasn’t the reason for making this Butterscotch Pie. In 45 days we’ll be moving and I’m trying to empty my cupboards as much as possible before we do. Having some butterscotch chips on hand, I thought they’d work perfectly in the pie. So I diligently gathered all the ingredients only to find out that, when making butterscotch pie, you don’t use chips. You actually make the butterscotch, which is kind of fun, but didn’t fulfill the reason for the pie in the first place. I guess that means I have to come up with another way to use the chips, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Ingredients for the pie filling:

  • 2 1/4 cups milk $0.63
  • 1 cup heavy cream $1.53
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter $0.78
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed $0.25
  • 3 egg yolks $0.24
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch $0.37
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt $0.01
  • 2 tablespoons Scotch whisky $0.99
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract $0.33

Ingredients for the meringue topping:

  • 2 egg whites $0.12
  • Pinch salt $0.01
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar $0.16
  • 1 pie crust, baked blind    $1.44

Total cost $5.86
Cost per serving $0.73

Directions:

1.) Start by preparing the pie filling. In a large saucepan, combine the milk and cream, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside.

2.) In a large, heavy skillet melt the butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the brown sugar, raise the heat to medium-high and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly to caramelize the mixture.

3.) Whisking constantly, gradually add the butter/brown sugar mixture to the hot cream/milk mixture. The caramelized mixture may seem as though it’s seizing as first. Just keep whisking, making sure the whisk stays in the hot mixture. It will loosen up and incorporate after a few minutes.

4.) Put the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Whisk in about 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture. Whisk in the cornstarch and salt until dissolved. Whisk the cornstarch mixture back into the hot milk mixture in the saucepan. Add the scotch and whisk in.

5.) Whisking constantly, cook over medium-high heat until thick and just boiling. Turn off the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Pour into the pre-baked pie shell and chill, uncovered, at least 2 hours or overnight.

6.) Close to baking time, make the meringue topping. Whip egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer until soft peaks form. Continue beating and gradually add powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.

7.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread meringue on top of the cooled pie and bake for 5 minutes, until the meringue is lightly browned. Remove from oven and let chill for about 10 minutes before placing in the fridge and chilling completely until ready to serve.

8.) Serve and enjoy!

May 14 2017

Estonian Red Salad

Estonian Red Salad

Happy Mother’s Day to all the outstanding mothers out there working hard every single day for their families!

This recipe didn’t come from my mother, but rather her mother, my dear grandma! I grew up on this salad and while I’m sure it has some very official Estonian name, in my house we came to know it as simply Red Salad. And we ate it. A lot. We loved it so much and were always excited when the big bowl of Red Salad would make its way onto the table. My brother and I have had bona fide fights over who gets the last of the red salad. It’s that good, worth fighting over.

My version isn’t exactly my grandma’s version (and therefore, not as good). But it’s still pretty darned tasty. In place of the traditional pickled herring, I put in anchovy paste for that umami flavour, and I’m sure I mixed some other things up along the way, too. For instance, I don’t know if my grandma puts fresh dill in it. But I do know she puts it in a lot of other stuff and I happened to have some on hand, so in it went. It still ended up with that brilliant pink/red colour that will make a splash at any table, and it tasted awfully close to what my grandmother makes. It takes me right back to my childhood and on this Mother’s Day, is a tribute to one of the greatest and strongest women I’ve ever known. My grandma.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound beets, whole and unpeeled $0.99
  • 1 pound Russet potatoes, whole and unpeeled $0.49
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, plus 1 or 2 for garnish $0.60
  • 2 dill pickles, roughly chopped $0.39
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (or more, depending on how dressed you like your salad) $1.44
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste $0.55
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for boiling water $0.01
  • 1 teaspoon sugar $0.01
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped $0.06

Total cost $4.54
Cost per serving $0.75

Directions:

1.) Place beets in a large pot with enough salted water to cover them completely, with at least an inch of water over top of them. Bring the water to a boil then lower to a simmer and boil just until the beets are fork-tender.

2.) Place potatoes in a separate large pot of salted water and again, add enough water to cover them with an extra inch of water. Boil until they too, are fork-tender.

3.) When potatoes and beets are both finished boiling, drain and when they are cool enough to handle, the skins should slip off easily. Both need to be chopped. The potatoes should be diced in about a medium dice, but the beets should be chopped a little more finely. Place both in a large bowl.

4.) Chop the eggs (to about the same size as the beets) and add them to the bowl, along with the dill pickles.

5.) In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, anchovy paste, salt, sugar and fresh dill. Stir well to incorporate all ingredients together. Pour over the bowl of potato mixture and stir to combine well.

6.) Quarter the remaining hard-boiled eggs and place on top of the salad as garnish.

7.) Serve and enjoy!

May 08 2017

Rigatoni in a Vodka Sauce

Rigatoni in a creamy vodka sauce and garnished with basil

There’s not a lot that can compete with my love of pasta. I love it in all shapes and forms, and I love trying out new sauces to go with them. The one I tried most recently was pasta in a vodka sauce and OMG, guys. It’s incredible. It only takes a few minutes to whip up (I did it during intermission while the playoffs were on) and it brings in all these new flavours that you may or may not have tried in pasta sauce before.

Of course, it all starts with tomatoes. I chose crushed because I wanted it to be saucy and not just tomato-y, but there are lots of recipes out there that call for whole tomatoes to be crushed slightly with your hands. So you can definitely take it that way if you’d like. Then, in addition with the vodka (that’s not too much,) a bit of cream also goes in to share the spotlight and take a bit of that acid away from the tomatoes.

It’s delightful and just like when you cook with wine, it’s perfectly suitable for kids. The alcohol in the vodka boils off so there’s no need to worry, even if Brent couldn’t help but call it the “get your kids to sleep hack.”

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta $3.99
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes $1.29
  • 1 tablespoon butter $0.13
  • 1 small onion, minced $0.47
  • 1 clove garlic, minced $0.01
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes $0.05
  • 1/2 cup vodka $2.39
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream $0.51
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese $1.49
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, roughly chopped $0.75

Total cost $11.08
Cost per serving $2.77

Directions:

1.) Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. When boiling, add the rigatoni and cook until just before the pasta reaches the al dente stage. I used durum semolina pasta, which takes a bit longer to cook, about 10 minutes. When done cooking, reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain.

2.) While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes, just until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for another 30 seconds.

3.) Remove the pan from the heat and add the vodka, tomatoes, and salt to taste. Return the pan to the heat and cook for another 7 minutes to boil the alcohol off. Stir in the heavy cream and cook for another 3 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the Parmesan and basil.

4.) Add the cooked pasta to the pan, along with the reserved cooking water. Toss and taste, adding more salt if necessary. Garnish with more Parmesan and basil, if desired.

5.) Serve and enjoy!

May 05 2017

Tequila Sunrise

Tequila Sunrise

It’s Cinco de Mayo! Every year I get excited about this holiday and use it as an excuse to partake of all kinds of Mexican food and drink. Little bit of trivia for you, while Mexicans do celebrate the day, they don’t actually call it Cinco de Mayo – that’s something reserved for the rest of North America. Instead, they celebrate The Day of the Battle of Puebla or rather, the day that the Mexican Army rose up over the French soldiers that were occupying their land and won that very significant battle. So that’s the history behind it, now on to the celebration!

Anyone that follows my blog knows that margaritas hold a very special place in this house. I make them often and if Brent and I are out celebrating something special, we usually order one (or two, or three.) This year though, I wanted to do something different. I mean, there has to be another drink that highlights tequila but doesn’t require a bunch of ice to be crushed beforehand.

Just as I thought, there is. And it’s one of the prettiest drinks I’ve ever made.

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces (6 parts) orange juice $0.38
  • 1 1/2 ounces (3 parts) tequila $0.84
  • 1/2 ounce (1 part) grenadine $0.01

Total cost for 1 tequila sunrise $1.23

Directions:

1.) Place orange juice and tequila in a cocktail shake and give it a good shake. Pour over ice into a tall glass.

2.) Add the grenadine to the glass. Do not stir. It will sink to the bottom and give the illusion of that sunrise for which the cocktail got its name.

3.) Serve and enjoy!

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