Tuesday, October 26, 2010

And the soup was born

Last weekend I had bought several kinds of squash. Peppercorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash... The reason? I got to love them recently and they were really cheap. Lately, I have been experimenting with different types of squash. Quite successfully I might add. First, the safe way, I just put cut pieces with some turkey pieces in the oven. Then, I peeled it and baked it. Getting more comfortable. I even tried to make 'pasta' from spaghetti squash. The dish was very impressive and even my 4 year old ate it.
Today, I wanted to make the mashed squash. Peeled it, cut in to pieces and boiled it. The water, after boiling the squash, looked so good, that I didn't want to throw it out. So I made the soup. Kept on creating it as I went along the process and the result was so good, I decided to share it with you.
And the it is.

You will need:
1 butternut squash
ground meat
stale bread or breadcrumbs
1 can 'Cream of mushroom'
salt and pepper to taste

Peel the squash and cut into pieces, as you would potato for the mashed potatoes. Boil the pieces in a medium size pot with about two to three cups of water for 10 minutes. Drain the squash, keeping the water they cooked in. Now prepare the little meat balls as you usually do. Or simply add an egg to your ground meat. Then put either soaked bread in hot water, or some bread crumbs. Season it with salt and pepper. If you are salt conscious as I am, you can get enough salt from bread. Usually, I use Italian bread crumbs. It already has added spices and even some parmesan cheese. Today, I used multi grain bread, because my bread crumbs were already packed into the boxes (we are moving in few days).
Add two more cups of water into your pot and a can of cream of mushroom. Whisk it well not leaving any pieces from the mushroom soup. When it starts to boil, slowly add small formed meat balls into the pot.
Then add chickpeas, squash pieces and a touch of thyme, if you have any. Or season to your liking with salt and pepper. The soup is born! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What is this blog all about and why I am here

I am a doting mom of a 4 year old boy from Lithuania. I have been living in Canada for half of my life and call it my home. I didn't have it easy. Being a single mom, I had to learn how to live on a very tight budget. I also wanted my son to eat homemade meals only. That led to more and more cooking. I already had a passion for cooking, because my mom wasn't a good cook, so I started to cook for myself from an early age. Everybody loved it, the food was delicious and I liked doing it. That passion never left me. Now, more than ever before, when I am in the kitchen, I feel the excitement, I want to make more and more different dishes, I want to create. I have my son and my friends test the fruits of my labor. I have so many different recipes in my head and in my cooking diary, that I decided to put everything into one place, and my Kitchen Secrets were born.

I will share with you how to make great meals on a very fixed budget, how to make everything from scratch and, most importantly, how to make self rising, yeast free rye bread. My grandmothers recipe. She used to make it back home, on a farm. My grandpa would grind the kernels with his own mill and my grandmother would make this bread from scratch. It only included the ingredients we had grown on a farm! And now, I make this wonderful bread every week, on Saturday. My son loves it, my friends feel lucky when they get half a loaf and we all are happy to eat such a healthy, full of fiber, bread. This bread is very healthy, it has a lot of fiber, and is made yeast-free. After eating this bread regularly, you will feel positive changes, I promise.

Buns with meat filling

This is one of my favorite foods. When I was growing up, in Lithuania, they were being sold on the street. Piping hot, very fresh, and so so tasty...That memory stayed with me for all these years. However, I didn't know how to make them. Just recently, I came across this recipe on Lithuanian site, made some changes and now I want to share it with you. Very easy to make, perfect for lunch at work or for kids at school. You can make some changes, too, according to your background and taste buds. In the ground meat, I put some sour cream for softness. If you have mayo handy, that would be perfect, too. I said in the ingredient list, that its nice with pork and lamb. I have to admit, I made them with lamb only once, when I had guests coming for my birth day. I don't think I will be buying lamb anytime soon again, because it is so expensive. I now usually make it just with ground pork, that I get at the oriental supermarket, for less than 1.50$ a pound.

You will need:
500 ml sour cream, better regular 14%
2 lb ground meat (any kind would do, chicken is nice, I like pork with lamb, or regular (not lean) beef with lamb would do especially well).
4 regular size onions, or 2 big ones
6 eggs (or less, 4 would be fine, too)
1 pack, 450 gr butter, room temperature, marjoram 1 tsp (teaspoon), or you can add even two
salt, one teaspoon for the dough and about the same for the meat
black ground pepper
4-5 cups about a kilogram of white flour (I usually need 4 full cups)

First, make dough. Take a big dish, brake the eggs, all but 2 yolks put aside for later, small spoon of salt, half a container of sour cream, and beat everything either with a fork or a mixer. Just so it would mix all together. Then cut with the knife piece by piece room temperature butter and put about 3 glasses (cups 250 ml) flour. I like to start with just few cups of flower, you can always add more, but if you put too much, you can't take it out. So, I am careful that way. The dough should be soft not sticking to hands. If needed more flour, add. You may need about good 4 cups or so...Put the prepared dough in the fridge, may keep it overnight, or for one hour.

Meanwhile, put ground meat in another big ball, put two good spoons of sour cream (the leaner the meat, the more sour cream you may want to add), chopped onions, salt (about a teaspoon or less) pepper, marjoram. Mix well with your hands. Coriander, or otherwise known as cilantro, goes well with the meat, too. That is an extra ecpence, though. You can get that at any supermarket, veggie section where they sell parsley and dill.

Take the dough from the fridge. Make small balls,about the size of an egg. Once you start making the so called buns, you will see what size of the ball you need. Any size will do. I made some smaller ones for my son and bigger ones for us. I made all of the balls at once, they won't stick too much, so the process is faster later.
Roll a pancake look alike (round) with a rolling pin (or even a round bottle would do), take it in your hand, put 1 good teaspoon of meat mixture and close it. You must be able to close the sides of the pancake without meat touching it, othervise, the dough won't stick. You will get a half moon. Once closed, put the closed part up. Close it real well, so it wouldn't open when baking.
After you have done around 10 or so, take a baking pan, flat, put parchment paper, and put your buns onto that sheet leaving about a finger space in between them. Fill the pan with buns, if needed, make more. For me it fit 10. Once one sheet is full of buns , mix left egg yolks, add a tablespoon of water, and brush on the buns. Bake at 350-375 Fahrenheit for about 30 min. Check, once it's nicely brown, take it out. For me it took exactly 30 min. Throw the old parchment paper, put new one on the same baking sheet. Make more buns, or put the ones you already made, brush with egg yolk. Done!

Parchment paper I buy at Jonvince, as well as a lot of other stuff. It really is cheap there. I discovered parchment paper just recently, but it is very useful. I save so much time on clean up! It also helps for your baking goods not to get burned!
I suggest, to buy marjoram at the balk barn stores. It's so much cheaper. I buy small bag, provided at the store, half full, for less than a dollar. That will last you a while.

Eggplant dip/baba-ganoush

I will start my new blog with this wonderful yet very simple recipe. A lot of us buy baba-ganoush in a store and pay a lot of money for just 200 ml. I have a recipe for you and from now on you will be able to make this spread-dip even tastier than in a store. This great recipe was given to me by my friend Inga R. She told me a secret step for this dish. That is to put  baked and scraped eggplant in the water! Thank you, Inga!
All you need is few eggplants that you can get in any store. Look for even colored, without blemishes, hard to the touch, eggplants.

And here it goes.

You will need: 3 eggplants
1/4 cup (or less, depending on taste) mayo
garlic (1-2 cloves, again depending on taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash eggplants, poke them with the fork everywhere, put on a baking sheet ( I put on a cookie sheet plus parchment paper) and bake at 400 for about an hour. They will get soft, change color, you will see some dark water at the bottom. Let them cool or if you are in a rush, it's possible to work with hot ones, too.

Put on a cutting board. On a side, prepare big bowl, or a pot, with cold water. Cut eggplant lengthwise and scoop with the spoon the insides. The scoped out inside put in the cold water. Keep them there for about 15-30 minutes. It's o.k. to leave for longer, if you have other things to do.

Then, take the cheese cloth and put the eggplant from the water in it. Squeeze gently the water out. Just so it wouldn't run. This can be done by taking the eggplant into the palm of your hand and gently sqeezing the water out. It does take much longer. When I found some cheesecloth that I had brought from Lithuania 17 years ago, I was very happy. It made my work much easier and faster.

Once you are done, put it on the cutting board and roughly chop it with the knife. You want some pieces still to be there. It somehow makes it tastier.

Add everything in a bowl, add finely chopped garlic and mayo. Stir and enjoy! It can be stored in a fridge up to two weeks.