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French Toast with Muesli Morning Pitas

I love getting sent free stuff to try but I don't like it when I get sent stuff and then I don't like it. Do I write about how much I didn't like it? Do I just pretend I never got it? Do I tell them the dog ate it and she seemed to enjoy it very much but I didn't get a chance to taste it myself and offer to let my dog write about it?

Ozery's Pita Break sent me a box of stuff to try out last week and luckily, I love their breads. We already buy the morning rounds, the regular pita and the thin buns that they call OneBun. Not only are they preservative free, low in sodium and generally full of good things, they are made right here in Toronto by a family run bakery. They are also Kosher and although I am not Jewish myself, you can never be too safe, right?
Since it is pretty much only me and The Kid right now while poor Shack works around the clock in and out of town to support the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed, it will take me a while to get around to using all the stuff - I have popped some of it into the freezer for later use but I have some good ideas rattling around in my head.

Smoky Dijon Crock Chops

Okay, I am a self admitted food snob but I am also a bit of an inconsistent food snob. The bottom line is that I like delicious food and for the most part, that also means real, whole foods. Blah blah blah
I also love McDonald's fries, Nacho Cheese Doritos with a hot , white passion and don't even think about getting me to promise that I will never eat doctored up ramen again. So, admitting that I do love selective crappy foods, I have been feeling a bit guilty about my rantings and railings against the use of "cream of cack" in dishes that are , otherwise, composed of yummy ingredients.

I also have to admit that I have lots of time to cook things from scratch during the week because I work freelance (which often means that I don't work for days on end and can sit at home on my butt, playing Candy Crush Saga on facebook and soak great white northern beans for soup) and I only have one kid who is gone from 8:30am to 6pm because, unlike his mother, he WORKS after school most days.

So, I have been gently lectured by some busy, working moms with lots of kids and crazy schedules. They say that sometimes a crock pot and a well place can of cream of mushroom soup can save the day and it's often the only thing standing between a meal with meat and veggies and a take out pizza or drive thru.

This has been weighing on my mind lately as it is and then I saw this recipe for Slow Cooker Pork Chops in Dijon Paprika Sauce on The Cooking Photographer. For some reason I really wanted to make this. Perhaps it reminded me of something my mom would have made (she had no problem throwing cans of cream soup at anything that moved), I don't know, but I kept craving it and trying to figure out ways to get around the whole cream of cack thing. Today I was going to make it and was thinking that I should make a béchamel and then use cream and some stock and wondering if that would work. I looked up and found myself in the soup aisle of the grocery store and there it was, staring me in the face. Campbells cream of chicken soup in a can.

Why couldn't I just pick it up? What is going to kill me about using a can of soup? I could get the healthy choice stuff with less sodium and that wouldn't be that bad. I have no problem using Campbells low sodium chicken stock in the tetra pack all the live long day but I have a mental block when it comes to this stuff.

I finally decided to confront my fear and I grabbed a can and ran out of the store before I could change my mind. Okay, I didn't run right out of the store because that would be shoplifting, but I did go straight to the cashier before I could change my mind.

I made a couple of changes, used smoked paprika and grainy mustard and stock instead of cooking sherry - I can't get on board with cooking sherry even if I did just use a can of cream of cack. A girl has to draw lines in the sand at some point.

I KNEW that Shack would like it and he did. I have to admit that it was really good, it took about five minutes to assemble, including the browning of the chops, it was tastier than I want to admit AND it was reminiscent of something my mom would have made us growing up and that is never a bad thing, is it? She would have never used the mustard or smoked paprika though and you couldn't really taste the soup - it was really more for substance and texture and ease.

Shack had a lot of opinions about it and how to make it even better next time and they were good ideas. He suggested using a pork roast or pork butt that would actually fall apart and shred into the sauce and instead of putting potatoes in it, make it more like a stew with root veggies and then serve it over rice. RICE!
He never wants me to serve rice but, there it is. They both really liked the flavour of the sauce but they didn't love the actual chops (they aren't big chop people in the first place so if you and your people are chop people, carry on with those).

Am I going to use canned cream soup all the time now? No, but even I have to admit it was fast, easy and really tasty and way healthier than ordering in pizza.

Smoky Dijon Crock Chops
adapted from The Cooking Photographer

1 1/2 lbs red and white potatoes quartered
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 onion, sliced
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 + 2 tbls chicken stock
1/4 old fashioned grainy dijon
a few sprigs fresh thyme
2 tsp smoked paprika
glug olive oil
approx 650kg (or about 1.5 lbs) center cut bonless pork chops
salt and pepper

Oil the inside of the crock pot with a bit of olive oil and cover the bottom with your potatoes. Sprinkle the garlic and sliced onions on top of that.
Now, mix together the chicken soup, 1/4 cup chicken stock, mustard, thyme and the paprikas and pour that over the potatoes.
In a frying pan, heat a little glug of olive oil over med high heat, salt and pepper your pork chops and brown them. When they have a nice bit of colour on both sides, lay them on top of the potatoes and sauce. Add a couple tbls chicken stock to the frying pan to deglaze it and scrape all of that on top of the pork.

Cook over low heat for about 7 hours or on high for about 3 1/2 hours.
To serve, put a couple pork chops (mine were small so if you got fewer, bigger chops, divide it up accordingly) and some potatoes on each plate and spoon some sauce over both.

White Bean, Kale and Sausage Soup

Well, as much as I want to pretend it's not happening, the cold weather is closing in which means it's probably time for my weekly Friday, So It Must Be Soup feature. It's actually Monday but I also have to post this as my submission to Gastropost this week as my ode to the fall bounty so let's just pretend it's Friday and you go make this soup.

Kale. We all love kale and I thank my lucky stars every day that I own a son who loves kale. He lets me put kale in his smoothies, he likes it in soups, he likes it sauteed with garlic and olive oil, he likes it in stews and he even likes kale chips. I don't know what sort of evil person I was in a past life that has made it possible to own a kid who loves food this much, but I choose to not ask too many questions and just keep cooking.

I make white bean, kale and sausage soup fairly often but I always use those little canned Italian white beans and italian sausage. Since I had all afternoon to make this soup I really couldn't come up with a good reason NOT to just quick soak some white great northern beans and go old school, so I did. I mean, I could have told myself "self, you are way too busy playing Candy Crush on Facebook to soak those damned beans" or "self, how are you going to actually take an extra hour out of your busy day watching Wolf Blitzer say the same thing he said yesterday but for some reason you still watch to soak these beans?" I would way too embarrassed to admit that I spend my precious time doing stuff like that so I just went and pre soaked the stupid beans.

Also, I still had a big link of Portuguese chorizo in the fridge that I was afraid would not get eaten and so that went into the soup this time in place of my typical, fresh Italian sausages that I normally bake and slice. This was way easier than cooking and slicing the raw sausage and they have a much denser, chewier texture that is really nice. I will also admit that the texture of the soaked beans is much nicer than the texture of the canned beans and really is worth the bit of extra effort it took to use quick soaked, dried beans. All in all, tasty, easy and nutritious and you can't beat that.

Kale, White Bean and Sausage Soup

from 1 cup dried beans - pre soaked white great northern beans (either overnight or quick soaked) , drained and rinsed
1 onion, finely chopped
1-3 clove garlic (if you really like garlic, use 3)
couple sprigs of fresh rosemary
couple sprigs fresh thyme
olive oil
7 cups of broth (I used turkey but chicken is great)
1 quart (4 cups) of water
1 parmesan rind (optional but really adds a good flavour if you have one lying around)
salt and pepper
2 bay leaf
1 cup of diced potato
1 parsnip, finely diced
1 medium bunch of kale, washed and chopped (about 1/2 lb)
1 lb of cooked Portuguese Chorizo sausage (I used mild),  sliced into coin sized slices

Pull out a big soup pot and start heating it up over medium heat. Cook the onions over medium heat in a glug of olive oil for four or five minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and cook that for another minute. Add the beans , water, stock, cheese rind if you are using it, salt and pepper, rosemary,thyme and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Let cook for about an hour, until the beans are tender. Keep checking and if they are not soft enough after an hour, keep simmering until they are but it shouldn't take much longer.

Add the parsnips to the soup and cook for about ten minutes before you add the potato, sweet potato, kale and chorizo and cook, simmering, for another 20 minutes or so, until the potatoes are tender and the kale is cooked. If you need to top the soup up with water or stock, do so after the kale has fully wilted so you can get a better idea of how thick the soup is going to be.

Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Apple Upside Down Cake

Canadian Thanksgiving is upon us and so we are getting ready to make our annual trek to spend the holiday with my sister and her family.

First of all, let us discuss the merits of having Thanksgiving fall so early in the year, as opposed to the American holiday which occurs right before Christmas. If you are a turkey lover, and we are huge turkey lovers, you want to partake of a big turkey dinner as many times a year as you can possibly manage, no? This means that we like to do turkey for Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. I am thinking about making Shack a huge turkey dinner for his birthday in May as well but don't tell him, it's a surprise. Don't worry, he says he reads my blog but he really doesn't so he will never know if you don't tell him.

So, back to the merits of an early Thanksgiving. Canadian Thanksgiving has been held on the second Monday of October since 1957. This means it can be as early as Oct 8th, like this year, or as late as the 15th or so. I like a holiday that moves around like that. I like knowing I am going to eat turkey but I never really know WHEN I am going to eat it so every year is like a surprise. Canadian Thanksgiving is nobodies bitch. Also, if you eat a big turkey dinner in early October, you are totally jonesing for another round by the end of December but if you eat turkey at the end of November, you find yourself pondering the merits of prime ribs and hams come Christmas. This means that you are going to consume one less turkey spread.
Not acceptable in my world.
Thanks god I am Canadian.

So, I am bringing a dessert to go with my sister's pumpkin pie. When my mom was alive, she would have made an apple pie to go with that but I don't want to make another pie. At the same time, I want to honour my mom so I want to make something with apples. My mom also made a mean pineapple upside down cake and my peach upside down cake as my favourite dessert this year. That is how a gooey, cinnamony apple upside down cake was born.

Apple Upside Down Cake
adapted from Abra Bennet at Food 52

1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
about 4 apple, sliced thinly
1 tsp cinnamon

3 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 cup AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
5 tbls apple juice or cider
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350F

Melt the butter in a 9" cast iron skillet and add the brown sugar. Mix it well until the sugar is totally combined with the melted butter and is pretty much dissolved and turn off the heat. Arrange your apple slices artfully (or not if you don't care about such things- again, I don't judge) on top of the melted butter brown sugar in the bottom of your skillet.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and set aside.

Beat the egg yolks at med speed until they are thick and yellow and then gradually add in the sugar, beating at med speed the whole time. Turn the speed to low and slowly start adding the flour mixture in there. Lastly, add the apple juice or cider.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form and fold them into the cake batter. Pour the batter over the fruit/butter/sugar and make sure it's evenly spread and covers all of the fruit.
Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes. Cool the cake on a rack in the skillet for about half an hour before inverting it onto a serving plate. Don't panic if some of the sugary apple chunks stay in the skillet because you can just scoop them up with a spatula and plop them back on the cake in the spot that now has a hole. Once the cake cools, it will have melted back in with the rest of the topping and nobody will care.
Amaze and wow your friends.

Lazy Crockpot Ribs

I really love ribs and in the summer time we often make them in the smoker. It takes all day and it's truly a labour of love but well worth the effort if you have that kind of time. Unfortunately, we don't always have an entire day to babysit meat in the smoker and in the winter, even if we COULD smoke ribs all day out in the snow, we won't because we are not nuts and it's way too cold to spend the day outdoors cooking. I used to cook them slow and low for hours in the oven and then broil them but I always feel like I should be home when I have the oven on all afternoon - it's the paranoid old lady channeling my mother I guess. Next thing you know, I will refuse to drive on rainy days, on really sunny days, in rush hour or at night... oh wait, I already don't drive at night if it is raining. Never mind.

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