Category Archives: Recipe research

Recipe Research > One-pot macaroni beef dinner

Is there such a thing as healthy hamburger helper?

Here’s what I’m looking for: a one-pot dinner that combines macaroni, ground beef, and maybe tomato. It doesn’t even have to be low calorie. It just has to be healthier than the stuff you buy in a box and add to ground beef. As usual, I like my recipes to use regular grocery store ingredients, to not dirty every pan in the house, and for the meal to come together without a lot of fuss. This is a weeknight meal, not a “pleasing my in-laws” meal.

So I was thrilled when I saw a recipe for Hamburger Buddy in a healthy eating magazine I subscribe to. I folded down the corner of the page, added it to my weekly meal plan, and I figured it could be recipe #1 in a series of recipes I would try during my search for an easy macaroni beef dinner.

Even better, this recipe included sneaky vegetables – those chopped up in a food processor – so that we’d be getting extra servings of vegetables without even trying. Yum, sounds perfect, right?

First, I get out the food processor (which has a base, a top, a blade, and a plastic piece to shove things inside) – yes, that means 4 parts that have to be washed. When I’m chopping the mushrooms with the garlic and carrots, it all turns to mush very quickly, so that when I add the onions to be chopped, the machine locks up – the mush getting mushier, the onions remaining in the centre still virtually whole. I fish out the onions and chop them by hand.

OK, then I brown the ground beef, add the squishy pureed vegetables, and begin to cook. It looks wrong, the colours are wrong (lots of orange from the carrots), but I try to have faith. The recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of dried thyme, which turns out to be way too much, but the first time I make a recipe I like to follow it exactly, before I begin modifying, so that I can see what the chef intended. I should have realized that if the only spices were salt, pepper, beef broth and thyme … well, it was going to taste like beef and noodles and thyme. And let me tell you, this is a weird combination. Thyme is better with chicken, with pasta, and in vegetable soup 🙂

So then I added the raw macaroni to the cooked veggies/meat combo, and then added cups and cups of water and beef broth so the whole thing could boil. You’re right, I know, I can see you all shaking your heads … yes, now I’ve got boiled thyme-scented beef.

Finally, I add some reserved beef broth thickened with flour (mixed in another cup that has to be washed). Then I add sour cream. This is more of a beef stroganoff than hamburger helper, but anyway…

It wasn’t a disaster. André ate it, saying it would be better with less thyme. I ate some and deemed it ‘edible’ but not worth making again. And while we were still sitting at the dinner table, I reached behind me and pulled out my three favourite cookbooks and began searching for another recipe to try, and I found three or four. Some require cooking the ingredients and then putting it in the oven to make a casserole, others use tomato juice and Worcestershire sauce as the only flavourings. Anyway, I’ll keep you posted on my progress as I sample my way through these recipes. It might take me 6 trials (like lasagne did), but in the end I’ll come up with something tasty and cheap and easy that is a combination of the best elements I can find.

Upcoming research

Along with the macaroni beef dinner, I’m already working on Moroccan chickpea stew that doesn’t taste watery and bland. Then my next cooking adventure is pot roast (as requested by new subscribers Anne, Tammy and Katie). I’m totally excited to find a really great pot roast recipe that works every time, isn’t overcooked, and makes enough for leftovers.

If you have any recipes that you would like me to develop, just drop me a line 🙂 I’d love to hear your feedback.

You can always reach me at shelley@oneroastchicken.com.

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu,
Owner & Head Chicken
www.oneroastchicken.com

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How I got started cooking at age 12

How did I get started cooking when I was 12? Well, I literally had no choice, considering my electives during my Grade 7 school year were (1) Family Living (girl and boy body parts, puberty, etc.), (2) Metal Class, (3) Woodworking (where my sister nearly lost a finger), (4) Sewing, and finally (5) Cooking class.

So the decision wasn’t that difficult: a three-legged table or apple crisp? I choose the cooking class.

My junior high school memories are grey: smelly classes, ineffectual teachers, and generally being misbehaved. Yet, in Cooking class, I had the chance to make and eat something, which broke up the stupendous dullness of Geography (we called it Geograph-Free because the teacher didn’t do anything and expected the same from us).

By contrast, the Cooking classroom was a well-ordered space. Drawers pulled out to reveal black outlines drawn inside showing where to put measuring cups after they were washed and dried. There was a full-functioning teacher at the front of the room demonstrating how to peel an apple, how to test if the butter was soft enough, and don’t forget to preheat your oven.

Then magically, about 40 minutes later, the timer went off, we removed pans from the oven, and there was apple crisp for two. We served it with whipped cream, couldn’t wait until it was cool enough, the whipped cream instead melting into white soup.

That’s it. That’s the whole story. In the middle of my grim junior high school years, there’s this little bit of sunshine — warm apple crisp in a tiny portion. It makes enough to share, but I’ve also eaten leftovers cold for breakfast!

I still remember that feeling of accomplishment, at age 12, and it was pretty fabulous. As the eldest of four girls, I believe I promptly went home and announced that I knew how to cook, and made up a double batch to share with my sisters.

And now I’ve replicated this entire event many times in my adult life, including this past weekend. Peel a few apples after dinner, mix up the crunchy topping, put it in the oven, breathe deeply as the house fills with the smell of apple and cinnamon. Since it’s the weekend we can open some wine, then take the apple crisp out of the oven, let it cool a bit, but I still can’t wait long enough. Serve with fresh whipped cream flavoured with a bit of vanilla.

[Photo credits: Kris Brandhagen]


Apple Crisp for Two

(original recipe from Shelley’s Grade 7 cooking class, Gorsebrook School, Halifax, Nova Scotia)

2 cups (500 mL) Macintosh apples, peeled, cored & sliced (approx. 2 med. apples)
½ cup (125 mL) brown sugar
¼ (60 mL) cup flour
¼ (60 mL) cup rolled oats
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) cinnamon
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) nutmeg
3 tablespoons (45 mL) soft butter

Grease a rectangular bread (loaf) pan. Put the apples in the bottom of the pan. Mix the other ingredients in a small bowl, and sprinkle on top of the apples. Make sure no apples are showing (or they’ll burn). Cook @ 350°F (180°C, gas mark 4) for 30 to 35 minutes.


As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. Just hit reply to this email and drop me a line 🙂 You can always reach me at shelley@oneroastchicken.com

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu,  Owner & Head Chef
www.oneroastchicken.com

Sneak Preview: Collection 1 > The first 20 cooking letters

Dear Subscriber,

I’m thrilled to share with you that the Collected cooking letters booklet is back from the printer and I have to tell you, I’m impressed!

OK, I know. I wrote the letters, one by one each week, sending them off to you. Topics from cinnamon ice cream to cooking for one…

But when the book came back from the printers, I was truly surprised.

IT’S BIG!

I knew it was 48-pages, full colour, with a nice card stock for the cover.

But I didn’t think it would feel so SUBSTANTIAL.

Have you ordered your copy yet? Some have already gone out in the mail this week. Was one of them yours?

This collection is only available to senior subscribers — and based on how quickly the orders are coming in, I’m not sure how long this limited print run is going to last me 🙂 Yikes, I’m going to have to order more!

If you don’t want the print version (although if you could see it, you’d change your mind), you can always download the PDF version for $3.99 (Cdn).

But I know my subscribers pretty well. When surveyed, more than 50% of you want things sent in a PAPER version so that you can hold it in your hands. The print collection is full-colour and will be shipped to you by mail no matter where you live. I’ve created three postal categories (Canada, US, and International). You just have to figure out where you live (I know you can do it), and then you just order your copy which includes shipping.

To see a preview copy of the entire 48-page collection, click here [PDF file].

And once you’ve seen how fabulous it looks, you’ll want to order your copy by clicking here.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.
You can always reach me at shelley@oneroastchicken.com.
Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef
www.oneroastchicken.com

Transcript > Reading labels

My last update was a short audio update called “Reading labels > Instant beef soup.”
[The audio is available here: http://www.audioacrobat.com/play/Wd6KRWHQ%5D

In case you have any problems listening to the update (it might be a bit slow if you’re on a dial-up internet connection), I had the update transcribed, and I wanted to include a copy of it here, so that you don’t miss out.

All best wishes,
Shelley

=====
Reading labels > Instant beef soup
=====

Today’s update is about reading labels. In an effort to keep costs down, when we were packing lunches, we had started adding an instant cup-a-soup to André’s lunch, to keep him from buying a bowl of soup from the daily canteen. (He likes to have soup for his coffee break, I guess it’s like his breakfast.)

So we were trying to keep costs down, so we picked up some instant soups in a cup, the kind where you just add boiling water, and they were really cheap, less than about 60¢ each sometimes.

He ate them very happily for several months. I would put one cup in each lunch every day, no work, very cheap, life is good.

Until I read the nutritional label on the side.

I’ll admit that I don’t read nutrition labels very religiously. Sometimes, if I’m standing in the grocery store and I can’t decide etween two boxes of crackers, I might check the fat or the sugar content.

Buy this instant cup-a-soup has 11 g of fat.

For comparison, that’s the same as a medium-sized donut, or two pork sausages. But if a regular can of Healthy Choice chicken noodle soup has 2 g of fat, how are they getting 11 grams into instant soup?

So we open up the top, look at the ingredients, what do you see? Noodles, it’s kind of salty, a few bits of dehydrated vegetables. That’s it. I pulled out some raw ingredients, similar ones, and I check the labels. Chicken broth? No fat. Beef broth? No fat. Instant Chinese noodles? Again, no fat.

It turns out they fry the noodles first before dehydrating them. I can’t tell you why. Unless it makes them taste better. It certainly doesn’t make them any more healthy.

I thought I would try to figure out how to make this beef noodle soup from scratch. It took me one or two trials to get the mix of ingredients just right. It’s hard to replace the very salty-MSG flavour, but the new version is super healthy and has 1 g of fat.

Now, on Mondays and Wednesdays after supper, I make up a batch of this soup, because each batch makes enough for two days. I don’t want to make too much in advance as I think the noodles would get soggy and weird, but maybe I’m just being careful. After it’s cooked, I divide the soup into two small containers, leave it on the counter to cool until bedtime, then I put them in the fridge.

Slightly more work, but cheap ingredients, and much more healthy.

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Homemade instant beef soup
=====

2 cups beef broth made with concentrate or powder (I use Bovril)

1 cup chicken broth (I use homemade from Extended Recipe 1.1, which has a tiny bit more fat than commercially prepared, but tastes better and has more body)

2 squares instant Chinese noodles

handful frozen peas

handful frozen corn

Put all ingredients into a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit approximately 15 minutes, or until the noodles are soft and fully rehydrated. Divide into two plastic containers, let cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate.

—-
Because I don’t know about you, but when I want grams of fat I’d really rather have a donut than an instant soup.

This is Shelley for One Roast Chicken, and I’ll talk to you again soon 🙂

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu
http://www.OneRoastChicken.com

Reading labels > Instant beef soup

This week I have an audio update for you. I’ve prepared a 3 minute audio message just for One Roast Chicken subscribers.

Do you know what instant beef noodle soup and TWO pork sausages have in common? The answer may surprise you.

 

>> Follow this link to listen to this week’s audio update…

[http://www.audioacrobat.com/play/Wd6KRWHQ ]

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.

You can always reach me at shelley@oneroastchicken.com.

 

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef
www.oneroastchicken.com

A Valentine’s Day story in three parts (Part 3)

Part 3

In the first two parts of this story, I was telling you about my misadventures in trying to impress my (then) boyfriend with an elaborate puff pastry dessert for Valentine’s Day.

In the completion of the Valentine’s Day story, I’m going to show you the pictures of the cake as it’s being made and assembled.

To make cream puffs, I started by making a batter of butter, water, flour and eggs. It starts off looking like pancake batter, but a little thicker. Then you heat it up. I’ve never heated batter before. It’s all very strange.

So I kept stirring, not sure what was happening, and then it started to pull into a coherent ball of dough (or several smaller balls)

These are the puffs cooking in the oven from the first trial in January. They turned out to be too big and after we ate a few we threw the rest out.

They sell sponge cakes at the grocery store… but only in the summer. It was impossible to find one in February … so I make my own from scratch (it was fine but not lovely, next time I’d add some flavouring, like alcohol!).

Again, I could have bought instant pudding and used Cool-Whip. But at the time I believed the future of my relationship was at stake. So I made the custard from scratch.

My pastry bag still had left over puff pastry batter in it, so I used an icing squirter-plunger-thing and just kept refilling it.

I heated up sugar to make caramel. It really smells like burnt marshmallows when it’s overdone, so I tried to stop before I smelled campfire (but was unsuccessful).

I put the rest of the pudding-cream mixture in the flan and tried to make it look smooth and lovely.

Using tongs, I dipped each filled puff into the sugar sauce, and placed on a tray to cool. They became rock hard at this stage. Once the flan had been filled, I arranged the choux buns around the edge of the flan, just inside the rim and decorated with strawberries.    

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This year, for Valentine’s Day … well, we’re married now, so perhaps the pressure is off? Nah, I’m still in super-impress mode. I think it’s a setting I can’t turn off 🙂

I’m going to make Tiramisu with Brandy Custard (yes, again with the homemade custard, although I like the idea of brandy, and I think I’ll buy the ladyfinger cookies at the Italian market, I won’t try to make those from scratch). I’ll take pictures, and share my success (or lack thereof) after February 14th.

PS/ I know someone out there is going to scold me for not giving you the recipes for the the above Gateau-St-Honore. It was a pretty advanced adventure, even for me, but if really really really want to see the recipes, I’ve posted them here.

PPS/ If you want to see a Flash slideshow version of the above images, including a few bonus pictures (such as the shot of what my kitchen really looks like when I’m cooking), you can visit this link.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.
You can always reach me at shelley@oneroastchicken.com.

 

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef
www.oneroastchicken.com

A Valentine’s Day story in three parts (Part 2)

Part 2

In the first part of this story, I began to tell you about my adventures in making Gateau St Honore for the first time — a complicated, multi-stage dessert. In January, I was making the puff pastries in advance, as a trial run, to ensure that on Valentine’s Day the whole thing would come off without a hitch. Only problem was that on my first attempt at making puff pastry, I discovered that the inside of each puff was raw…

I’ve spent the time cooking these things, and when they’re done, I open up each one while they’re still hot. Let me describe what the inside of these puffs really look like. Once I split them open, I find a lump of uncooked batter that smells suspiciously (very strongly) of eggs. It resembles scrambled eggs, in fact.

So I diligently scrape out the scrambled eggs, as the Julia Child recipe says I will have to. I scrape it with my fingers, from each and every puff (1). It’s disgusting. It is so grim, in fact, that we eat a few of them and throw the rest of the trial batch in the garbage.

Distressed, I call my mother long distance. My mother can be difficult. One area where I can generally talk to her (and not get into an argument) is on the subject of food. She’s a good cook. She has 20 years more cooking experience than I do. And she’s from the south shore of Nova Scotia so she’s got this “easiest is best” mindset.

Mother says: “Use the recipe in the Purity Flour Cook Book.”

She always says this. When in doubt, use this book. It’s like my grandmother, who says “put a little ozonol on it,” like that’ll solve all problems. Rash, heartburn, broken arm. Well, if you’re my mother (let’s call her Sherri, since that is her name), well if you’re Sherri, you use the Purity Cook Book to solve all of life’s problems.

I try to argue with her that the four remaining recipes I have (including Purity) are identical – all include more flour than Julia (therefore the batter would arguably be less eggy). And I figured if I made the puffs smaller the second time, I’d solve the scrambled-eggs-centre problem.

But Sherri is insistent that the Purity book is old fashioned, and therefore more reliable. What about my collected Gourmet edition I’d gotten for Christmas? What about the new edition of the Joy of Cooking? No, Sherri says, stick with Purity.

She then says something snarky like “I’ve made almost every recipe in that book, including the pickles. And every single one of them has worked out.”

Well, doesn’t that sound like a challenge? Maybe one day I’ll take a page from The Julie/Julia Project, and I’ll make every recipe in the Purity Flour Cook Book just to see if my mother might be exaggerating. Maybe someday, but not today.

I did use the Purity recipe on Valentine’s Day to make the cream puffs (2). I’m sure it’s the same as the Joy of Cooking or Gourmet. But really, I had to do what my mother told me to do.

I might be 40, but I’m not stupid.

Stay tuned… in Part 3 you’ll get to see all of the pictures of the cake as it’s being made and assembled… and I’ll let you know my plans for Valentine’s Day this year 🙂

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.
You can always reach me at shelley@oneroastchicken.com.

 

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef
www.oneroastchicken.com