This week’s cooking projects from my recipe collection was to make my mini meat loaves, the subject of this post, plus, earlier in the week, blondies and bran muffins. My recipe for meat loaf is another example of one of my easy recipes whose formal existence lies in simply documenting rough amounts of ingredients required to make the dish, as well as filling the freezer with convenient prepared-in-advance foods in portions convenient for one to two people; admittedly, the recipe hardly describes a particularly technical, involved, or challenging dish.
First, I checked my container in which I collect and save bread crumbs and bread pieces to see if I’d had enough dried bread crumbs and bread pieces:
Although I did have a sufficient supply, I decided to add to it, by taking out a bread heel …
… which was sliced into spears …
… and then sliced again into cubes:
The bread was placed into a countertop convection oven in order to dry the bread cubes:
When dried (and perhaps slightly over-browned), the bread cubes were taken out of the countertop oven, and allowed to cool:
The cooled bread cubes, and some of my existing supply, were placed in a measuring cup and put aside:
Two onions were taken out …
… trimmed …
… chopped somewhere between coarsely and finely …
… and placed in a bowl, to be put aside for later use:
A serving plate was placed on a kitchen scale, which was set to imperial units, and set to zero:
Four pounds of ground beef were measured out …
… and placed in a large mixing bowl (well in this case, a large salad bowl):
The dried bread cubes and bread crumbs were added to the mixing bowl:
The chopped onions were added to the mixing bowl:
A large egg was cracked and added to the mixing bowl:
A teaspoon of salt was added to the mixing bowl:
And pepper was added to the mixing bowl:
Here is the mixing bowl with all the ingredients in it:
All ingredients were thoroughly mixed by hand:
The meat mix was formed into six individual mini loaves, and three mini loaves were placed in each of two loaf pans:
The meat loaves were placed in a countertop oven preheated to 350F:
Partway through the cooking, the meat loaves were removed from the oven, and basted with the drippings from the bottom of the baking pans:
At the end of the cooking, the meat loaves were removed from the countertop oven:
The drippings were transferred to a bowl …
… and the grease was cooled solid in a refrigerator:
The solidified fat was separated from the other drippings, which were saved in a container and frozen for use in some future soup not yet otherwise planned; the solidified fat was wrapped in paper towelling, and placed in the curbside brown box for municipal composting.
In the meantime, the meat loaves were placed on a tray, to be placed in the freezer to quickly cool down:
Sealable sandwich bags were identified with the intended contents and the date:
The now partially frozen meat loaves were placed in the sandwich bags:
Finally, the meat loaves were placed in the freezer again, for when I will be eating them.
They are really convenient to take out for last minute supper plans for two, and / or to have leftovers for lunches.
First, a bowl was placed on a kitchen scale and the scale weight was set to zero:
Then semi-sweet chocolate chips and milk chocolate buttons (as well as a few rosettes) were taken out …
… and 150 grams of each were weighed out in the bowl, for a total of 300 grams:
The chocolates were then put aside for later.
Then, two 13″ x 9″ baking pans were lined with parchment paper, and put aside for later:
To begin making the buttercrunch part, margarine was scooped up in a paper towel …
… and a heavy pot was coated with the margarine:
A pound of butter was taken out …
… and half a pound of butter was cut off to be used in the recipe, while the remaining portion was put away:
The butter was placed in the greased, heavy pot, and the stove turned on low:
On a low heat, the butter was completely melted:
A cup and a quarter of granulated white sugar was added to the melted butter …
… along with roughly two tablespoons of maple syrup …
… and roughly two tablespoons of water:
The melted butter, sugar, maple syrup, and water were mixed together …
… and then stove burner was turned up from a low setting to a medium setting:
And the mixture was heated, while constantly being stirred, and the temperature being monitored with a candy thermometer:
Once the mixture reached 300F, it was transferred to the baking pans lined with the parchment paper …
… and immediately spread out using a stiff spatula:
As a cautionary mention, be careful not to overheat the buttercrunch mixture, since shortly after 300F, the pan will scorch (this picture is normal, but it is at the point at which the candy would scorch if the buttercrunch were left in the pot any longer):
The chocolate prepared earlier was placed in a microwave oven for two and a half minutes to melt, and partway through, I took it out to blend it so as to help with even melting and to avoid hot spots which would promote burning:
And then the fully melted chocolate was taken out of the microwave, and fully blended (Note that this photo is from a previous batch some months ago):
The fully melted and blended chocolate was poured onto the still-warm buttercrunch …
… and then the chocolate was promptly spread over the buttercrunch with a stiff spatula:
The chocolate was allowed to just about fully cool to room temperature, and hence once the chocolate was congealed, a table knife was use to break the buttercrunch into rough pieces:
The trays of chocolate buttercrunch were then placed in a fridge to completely cool and solidify the candy, and then the pieces were gingerly broken apart by hand (be careful, too much effort or enthusiasm in doing so will separate the chocolate from the buttercrunch):
And finally, the candy was separated into bags:
Of course, mom received the largest bag, while my brother will get one of the other two bags.
I came about to learning to make plain cake from scratch after I attempted to make a New York crumble cake I’d seen being made on a Martha Stewart cooking show. Not only was the cake not as expected — we were expecting mostly cake with a modest but tasty crumble crust, instead of the actual small amount of cake and a sizable crumble crust — the cake did not bake well, and I was very disinclined to try it again. The next day, I looked for a plain cake recipe on the internet and found one, which I adapted to my format.
First, two cups of flour were placed in a mixing bowl:
… to which two teaspoons of baking powder were added:
… as well as a quarter teaspoon of salt:
The flour, baking powder, and salt were blended with a fork:
The bowl was then put aside until later.
Margarine was picked up on a piece of paper towelling:
… in order to coat the interior surfaces of the baking pan:
Then, a bit of flour was put in the pan …
… and spread around to coat the margarine:
The baking pan was also put aside until later.
In another mixing bowl, a quarter cup of shortening was added:
The shortening was creamed with an electric mixer:
A cup of sugar was added to the creamed shortening:
… and the sugar and shortening were blended:
An egg was added to the mixing bowl:
… and the ingredients were again blended:
A teaspoon of vanilla extract was added to the mix:
… and again, the ingredients were blended.
About a third of the flour mix prepared earlier, and about a third of a cup of milk, were added to the ingredients:
… and completely blended:
The previous two steps were repeated twice until all the milk and flour mix were blended into the batter.
The batter was then transferred to the floured baking pan:
… and placed in a countertop convection oven preheated to 350F:
At this point, I was getting rather thirsty, so I poured myself some iced tea, and a bottle of my homebrew, a Belgian-style brown ale, made with water from filtered, melted ice from the lake at my cottage:
Since my mom suggested that a lemon drizzle be added to the cake, first a few tablespoons of icing sugar were placed in a bowl:
… to which half the number of teaspoons of lemon juice were added:
… and the ingredients were mixed, then put aside for later:
Soon, the cake in the oven was puffing up and browning:
… and was taken out of the oven after 55 minutes of baking:
The cake was pricked multiple times with a thick needle …
… to allow for some absorption of the lemon sauce which was poured over the cake with a small plastic scoop:
… at which point, the cake looked like follows:
When cooled, a knife was used to loosen the cake around its edges in the baking pan, and the cake was taken out of the baking pan:
A few slices of cake were cut from the cake:
And, of course, the cake was yummy! And mom said “Delicious!”
First, I emptied six 900ml boxes of store-bought chicken broth …
… into my 16 quart stock pot:
Then, four pounds of chicken pieces …
… were placed into the chicken broth …
… and brought to a boil:
While the broth and chicken were heating up and boiling for about 30 minutes, carrots were taken out (yes, these were a bit on the old side):
The carrots were cleaned and trimmed:
Then, they were quartered, length-wise:
… and then the carrots were chopped coarsely:
The chopped carrots were placed in a bowl, and put aside for later:
Then, celery (a bit more than called for in my recipe) was taken out and cleaned:
The celery stalks were trimmed:
Then the celery stalks were were sliced lengthwise:
… and then the celery stalks were chopped coarsely:
The chopped celery was placed in a bowl, and put aside for later:
About two pounds of onions were then taken out …
… trimmed …
… quartered …
… and chopped coarsely:
The chopped onions were placed in a bowl, and put aside for later:
At this point, the chicken and broth had been boiling for about 30 minutes:
… and the chicken pieces were taken out of the broth, and placed on a cutting board:
The heat under the broth was turned off for the time being, and the chicken put aside for a few moments to allow some cooling.
In the meantime, the chicken fat was skimmed off the top of the broth and placed in a fat separator:
The soup fraction at the bottom was transferred back to the soup pot, and the fat was transferred to a bowl to solidify:
Should one not have a fat separator, the skimmed fat can be placed in a large bowl or pot, and ice can be added to more quickly solidify the fat, allowing for its easy removal so that the (now diluted) soup fraction underneath can be returned to the soup pot:
Returning to the soup ingredients, I separated the somewhat cooled chicken meat …
… from the bones, skin, and cartilage:
The bones, skin, and cartilage were wrapped up in paper along with the solidified chicken fat, and the trimmings from the carrots, celery, and onions, to be placed in my curbside brown box for pickup for municipal composting.
The chicken meat was placed back on the cleaned cutting board:
… and the chicken meat was chopped coarsely:
The chopped chicken was placed in a bowl, and put aside for later:
At this point, I started “assembling” the soup, by adding the chopped celery to the still-hot broth:
… then the chopped carrots:
… then the chopped onions:
… and finally the chopped chicken meat:
Given that the commercial broth purchased for today’s cooking had sufficient salt content for my liking, barely a shake of extra salt was added to the pot.
The soup was brought to a boil again, and boiled for another thirty minutes:
Here’s the soup after boiling all the ingredients together for thirty minutes:
The cooked chicken soup was transferred to ten used yoghurt containers for freezing, and two more slightly larger containers (on the right) to put in the fridge for supper later on in the day:
The soup for supper was great, and the individual containers are already in the freezer for future eating.
My recipe for stuffed potato skins is a bit of a no-brainer, whose formal existence as a recipe lies more in the documenting the amounts of ingredients required so as to minimize waste and leftovers, or scrambling about to prepare extra ingredients to use up other already-prepared ingredients. Originally, making the stuffed potato skins was both an effort to add to my collection of recipes that could be used to fill the freezer, as well as a response to a desire to make stuffed potato skins, critically, using items I normally have on hand (potatoes, cheese, and in this case, frozen cooked breakfast sausages); however, yummy as they are, there was no pretense to attempt to replicate some mythically great potato skins eaten at some hypothetical pub.
First, five potatoes were taken out …
… and then washed — in this picture, save one, to show the comparison between cleaned and not (although the bag of potatoes does say “washed potatoes”).
Potatoes were halved along their length:
The potatoes were then somewhat hollowed out (before cooking, instead of after, as mentioned in my recipe, so that I could boil the removed pulp later to make mashed potatoes), while leaving a generous amount of the potato pulp in the skins:
The pulps from the potatoes were placed in water, to boil later …
… and with which to ultimately make a bit of mashed potatoes to be used in a lunch in the next couple of days:
Back to the potato skins: The hollowed out potatoes were placed on a microwave-safe plate:
The plate of hollowed out potatoes were placed in the microwave oven (1200 watts) for 10 minutes:
Once cooked (a few skins needed another couple of minutes to finish cooking), the hollowed out potatoes were placed on a flat surface (a cutting board), ready for stuffing with sausage cubes:
Today’s cooking project from my recipe collection was bacon-wrapped chicken pieces, something I originally started making a couple of years ago for their value as an easy enough to make last minute hors d’oeuvres contribution for a party; now I principally make them for the value of having them pre-made in the freezer, including to possibly use at a later time as hors d’oeuvres at a party.
To begin, parchment paper was placed in a baking pan:
Wooden toothpicks were also taken out:
I cut a package and a half’s worth (375g each package, for a total of about 560g) of bacon into half-lengths, which worked out to 40 half-slices, the amount of pieces I target in my recipe.
The rest of the bacon was placed in a bag and frozen, for later use.
Two chicken breasts were placed on a cutting board:
The chicken breasts were sliced along their length …
… and then each chicken breast was cut into approximately 20 cubes:
In this case, the pile on the left are the cubes to be used directly, while the pile on the right are smaller pieces which were bundled together two or three pieces at a time in half-slices of bacon as though they were full pieces of chicken.
The cubes were individually wrapped in a half-slice of bacon, and skewered with a wooden toothpick:
Smaller pieces of chicken were bundled together, two or three pieces at a time, and wrapped in bacon, then skewered with a wooden toothpick:
As each piece of bacon was wrapped in bacon and skewered, they were placed on the parchment paper in a baking pan:
Once all the pieces of chicken were wrapped, they were equally divided between two baking pans that fit (one tray at a time) in my countertop convection oven:
The first tray was placed in my countertop convection oven (and yes, the glass door was dirty, and was cleaned afterwards):
Partway through the cooking (after about 25 minutes), the pieces were turned over (in this case, the three columns on the left):
When the pieces were fully cooked after about 50 minutes, they were taken out of the oven:
Cooked pieces were transferred to a clean tray to be placed in the freezer:
The first tray of cooked bacon-wrapped chicken was placed in the freezer to cool and freeze.
Meanwhile, the grease and drippings in the baking pan …
… were drained into a bowl, cooled and solidified, and then wrapped in paper, to be placed in the municipal brown box for composting.
The second tray’s worth of raw bacon-wrapped chicken pieces was transferred to the first baking pan, because of its deep sides and all the grease and drippings produced:
The pieces of bacon-wrapped chicken were cooked the same way as the first tray, and once taken out of the drippings, looked like the first tray of cooked pieces:
After the second tray of bacon-wrapped chicken had cooked, the frozen pieces from the first tray were transferred to a plastic container:
Those from the second tray, once cooked, were also transferred to a separate tray, frozen, and then transferred to a plastic container.
All the bacon-wrapped chicken pieces are now in the freezer again, waiting to be eaten — some of them tomorrow!
Of course, the pieces were tasty (I tasted one to make sure they were good!)
This week, I took photos while I made more bran muffins for my mom, using a recipe I’d found on allrecipes.com and which so far I have not yetwhich I have now (20210214) converted into my own format. As a side note, I should I have now converted it to my usual recipe format, because when I make them, I use regular milk instead of buttermilk, and I normally make a major change: Instead of placing the batter into twelve muffin papers in a twelve-welled baking tin, I bake the batter in a six-welled baking tin (with slightly larger wells), lined with coffee filter papers, and the baking time was adjusted to 22 minutes.
This batch of muffins had a further deviation from the recipes above, which was the intentional omission of raisins for reasons beyond the scope of this post.
First, I measured out a cup and a half of wheat bran into a mixing bowl:
A cup of milk was added to the bran:
The bran and milk were mixed with a fork, and put aside:
A third of a cup of vegetable oil was measured out and placed in a separate bowl (the white dots are milk leftover in the measuring cup):
A large egg was added to the vegetable oil:
Two thirds of a cup of packed brown sugar were added to the oil and egg:
A teaspoon of vanilla extract was added to the vegetable oil, egg, and brown sugar:
The vegetable oil, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla extract were blended with a fork:
The vegetable oil, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla extract were added to the bran and milk mix:
All the ingredients were blended together with a fork:
A teaspoon each of baking powder and baking soda were added to a cup of flour — unfortunately, I forgot to add the quarter teaspoon of salt, to no apparent ill effect.
The flour, baking powder, and baking soda were mixed together in the cup, and added to the rest of the ingredients:
Again, all the ingredients were blended together with a fork. At this point, I would normally have added three quarters of a cup of raisins, which I didn’t do this time.
I make double sized muffins for my mom, so I use coffee filter papers, for which I use a glass to help form within the baking tin:
The batter was spooned into each of the wells:
The muffin tin was placed in a counter-top convection oven preheated to 350F, and baked for 22 minutes (rotated 180 degrees part way through):
The muffins were taken out of the oven after 22 minutes and placed on a cooling rack:
After a few minutes, the still cooling muffins were taken out of the baking tin, and returned to the cooling rack to continue cooling:
Once cooled, I placed the muffins in a sealed container.
Mom was so impressed, she said that the following morning, she would have one from this batch, before eating the last muffin from the last batch!
Although I have already done someposts on my pickled eggs, as per my recent wont of photo posts of me making my various recipes, I took a lot of photos yesterday when I made pickled eggs. Sigh, the stores know how to get me every time when they advertise eggs on sale!
Before I went to buy the eggs, I prepared some extra ice, which would be needed later on once the eggs were boiled:
Then I went out to do some shopping and I purchased three flats of 30 eggs each, for a total of 90 eggs, at the advertised price of $4.44 CDN per flat (14.8 cents per egg).
I took out ten jars with mason openings; although the jars shown aren’t strictly speaking mason jars, they have mason jar threading, and I’ve never had trouble with them.
Of course, I also prepared ten rings and lids (in this case, clean reused lids, since I expect that I will be eating the eggs from most of the jars):
Cold water was put in a pot and heated, for later use when boiling the jars.
I boiled and shelled the eggs over two sessions of 45 eggs each, one after the other.
First, eggs were placed in a pot:
Cold water was added to the pot with the eggs, covering the eggs.
The stove was turned on, and I brought the eggs to a boil, and then boiled them for eight minutes.
During the time it took to heat up and boil the eggs, the first thing I did was pour myself a nice beer:
Yes, that is a double sized, 750mL bottle of beer containing 9% alc/vol; it’s called “Don de Dieu”, and it’s a bottle refermented abbey-style triple wheat beer, from Unibroue, in Chambly, Québec.
Back to work, still while the eggs were heating up and boiling, I prepared some pickling solution:
Vinegar was measured out into a pot (in this case, 7-1/2 cups; according to my recipe, I knew I would need another 3-3/4 cups, as well as the commensurate amounts of sugar, salt, and spices) :
Sugar (in this case, 1 cup) was added:
Salt (in this case, 3-1/2 teaspoons) was added to the pickling solution:
A commercial pickling spice blend (in this case, 3-1/2 tablespoons) was added to the pickling solution:
The pickling solution was covered and put aside, to be boiled later.
Soon, the eggs had reached the boiling point, and the eggs were boiled for eight minutes:
After eight minutes of boiling, the boiling water was immediately drained from the pot of eggs, and cold water was added to the pot of eggs, as well as ice:
The ice water and eggs were gently mixed by hand, in order to quickly and thoroughly cool the eggs, which takes a few minutes. This is necessary so as to avoid the development of a greenish-blackish ring around the egg yolks (which is harmless, but aesthetically undesirable), as well as to aid in the peeling; the sharp temperature change helps dislodge the membrane just inside the shell, which will then make it easier to remove the shells and minimize tearing.
The eggshells were then peeled:
Shelled eggs were rinsed in cool water and placed in a couple of bowls:
Sometimes, there are tears when shelling eggs. In yesterday’s case, there were 25 eggs with tears; however, tears don’t affect the eggs’ ability to be pickled, they just make the eggs not always look as nice. As such, these eggs were merely placed in a separate bowl so that they could be bottled together for personal consumption, and to distinguish them from the nicely peeled eggs, should I decide to give away a jar of the “nice” eggs (see below).
At this point, a few hand tools were needed: Some tongs, a ladle, a jar holder, and a slotted spoon. Not shown: mason jar filler.
At this point, the water which was heated earlier for the bottles was brought up to boiling again, and jars were put in the water once it was boiling:
At the same time, the pickling solution was brought to a boil:
In a third pot — the same one in which the eggs were originally boiled — fresh water was brought to a boil, and eggs (in this case, nine eggs at a time, the number of eggs which fit in the size of jars used) were added, once all three pots were boiling:
Eggs are only kept in the boiling water long enough to take out a jar from the boiling water bath (just as the jars need only be in the boiling water bath for the time it takes to put the eggs in the boiling water bath.)
A jar is taken out of the boiling water bath, and the eggs in the boiling water bath are transferred to the hot jar:
The pot of hot pickling solution — which is kept simmering to boiling on the stove in between filling jars — is brought over, and hot pickling solution is added to the hot jar with the hot eggs:
The lids and rings were individually placed in the mason jar hot water bath and immediately placed on the filled jars.
Seven jars were each filled with nine eggs without tears, and three jars were each filled with nine eggs with tears.
Once all the jars were filled, they were placed in a refrigerator overnight to cool the contents relatively quickly, in order to avoid the development of greenish-blackish rings around the egg yolks (which is harmless, but aesthetically undesirable.)
This morning, I took the jars out of the fridge, and wiped down the jars, since when filling the jars and putting on the lids, sometimes the pickling solution spilled a bit.
This included taking off the rings to wipe down the necks of the jars, which wasn’t a problem since all the lids on the jars formed a good vacuum seal.
I have a computer file of labels I use for my pickled eggs, which I printed out. I do both English and French parts because I live in a primarily French speaking area, and therefore it’s good to have both languages for when I give away and sell jars. I cut out the individual labels, folded them over lengthwise, wrote the date on the backsides, punched a hole in each, and looped an elastic band in the hole of each label.
I placed the labels around the necks of the jars. In this photo, the three jars of eggs with tears are in the front row and on the right.
Since I already had some pickled eggs in stock (a total of 91 over seven jars), which I made about a month ago, I moved them around to make space in the storage room:
Things were moved around, and yesterday’s jars of pickled eggs are now all put away, on the bottom shelf below the existing jars:
As you’ll notice, there are also three extra jars of six pickled eggs in the stock I’d already had, that were not in the above photo; these will likely be given as gifts before I give away any of yesterday’s production since new lids were used when they were made.
And if I don’t give out any jars as gifts? Then I’ll have enough pickled eggs for myself until at least early summer of this year!
ps: And the beer? Of course it was good! It’s a beer I’ve had several times before, it’s from my favourite brewery (Unibroue — no, not the multinational brewery with a slightly different spelling), barring the fact that my favourite beer is from another brewery, and I have a particular taste for Belgian abbey beers and wheat beers.
My aunt has been making shortbread cookies for a long time, and used to even send batches of her shortbread cookies through the mail across the country to my grandmother. At one point, I asked my aunt to teach me how make her shortbread cookies so that I could make them somewhat more often and then bring them directly and personally to my grandmother. Alas, my grandmother passed away a few years ago, but I have continued making the shortbread cookies because they are tasty, and my mom has said “why should I bother making my shortbread cookies when you make them (an albeit different recipe) so well?” 🙂
I recently made them for the third time in the past month or so, this time to make as a Christmas gift for my brother who also really likes them; I reminded him that our aunt is the mistress, and I merely the student. 🙂
I started off by bringing a pound of butter to room temperature:
Then I creamed the butter with an electric beater (dating from the early 1960’s — it’s older than I am!)
A cup (packed) of brown sugar was added …
… and then blended with the creamed butter.
Four cups of regular flour were added, one cup at a time.
Here is the dough after all four cups of flour have been mixed in:
Next, flour was spread on the cutting board to avoid sticking:
The dough was placed on the cutting board, floured a bit on top to avoid sticking, and flattened with my hands:
The dough was then further flattened out with a rolling pin.
The dough was then cut into strips about an inch wide, and ends were cut off.
I started to cut the strips into roughly two inch lengths.
Cuttings from the edges and cookie pieces that broke were put back in the mixing bowl to be formed together again to cut more cookies.
The rectangular cookies were placed on cookie sheets.
And here are all of my cookies, at the end of the pricking.
The cookies were placed in an oven preheated to 300F and baked for 22 minutes. This could vary somewhat based on your oven and the electrical load in your neighbourhood at the time you bake, but take them out when the bottoms just start to brown.
And here are the cookies, cooling on baking racks:
Yes, there is a broken cookie in the upper right hand corner, it broke when I took it off the baking tray. Anyway, I had to do a quality control test, you must understand … it was yummy!
The cookies are now bagged up carefully and the bags placed in a box, which was placed in the freezer until Christmas Day when they will be given to my brother as one of his gifts.