Pho at Home! Woo-hoo!

While walking the soup aisle of Superstore (if you haven’t visited one in Canada, it’s a no-frills, basic grocery store), my heart was in my mouth when I looked to my right and saw that Campbell’s now makes Pho broth for home! I could have done a jig and clicked my heels with delight.  I loaded up with a couple tetra paks and headed straight to the veg area for green onion, bean sprouts, basil, cilantro and lime.

Now, I will put this disclaimer out there — if you have travelled to Vietnam and enjoyed pho made fresh and piping hot in the early morning, you will be disappointed.   I spent a very short four days there and enjoyed beautiful food.   I’ve only found a couple restaurants in Vancouver that can compare with the real thing; however, if you want something quick that takes care of a pho craving and maybe have kids who want a simple meal to make, this is a fun dish for home.

Campbell’s also does you a favour and puts a recipe on the side for those who need the basics of the ingredients and assembly of this dish.  I like to wing it and vary the quantities each time I make it – no two phos are the same.  A plus to this packaged broth is that it’s pretty low sodium so you can amp up the salt if you need to.  Another tip, don’t just squirt the Hoisin or Sriracha on without sampling the broth first, see how you like the flavour before adding the condiments.

So, here’s what you need for a fun, quick and tasty “home” pho (no 12 plus hours of simmering the marrow out of bones ~ don’t get me wrong, I’m determined to try making the both from scratch..some day, when I have 12 hours put together that I can devote to my kitchen).

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Shopping list:

1 – 900 ml box Campbell’s Pho Broth
1/2 pound of flank steak, cut thinly, crossgrain, seasoned with 1/2-1 tsp salt and lightly tossed in canola oil (maybe a 1 tbsp)
1 cup bean sprouts (love them, so I like to have lots)
1/2 pound dry rice noodles
1/2 small yellow onion, very thinly sliced
3 green onions, chopped
1 lime (cut in half)
2-3 tbsp cilantro and basil leaves, roughly chopped
1-2 tsp fish sauce (optional)

I’m a big rice noodle fan so I like a lot in my pho.  Cook rice noodles according to package, rinse with cold water and place to the side.  Toss seasoned flank steak with canola oil and over medium heat cook the steak 1-2 min each side and place to side while broth is heating up. I like my meat to be somewhat rare in the centre because the broth is so hot, it cooks the meat once the soup is put together.   Heat broth over medium heat until it is simmering – check to see if you want to add salt, remembering the meat is salted and onions and herbs will add flavour.  If you want to, add 1-2 tsp of fish sauce – season to taste.

Divide noodles between serving bowls (I get 4 good size servings per box of broth), add sprouts, both types of onion, cilantro and basil and steak pieces.  Pour broth over the noodles and veggies and using one of the lime halves, squeeze a spritz of juice over each bowl. Cut the other lime half into wedges for garnish. Taste the broth.  If you want a kick, add a squirt of Sriracha sauce, or for a sweeter, smokier flavour, Hoisin sauce.  Serve immediately while broth is hot!  With chopsticks and soup spoon in hand … enjoy!

 

 

 

The Chili – A Crafter’s Weekend Saviour

While the focus of this blog is primarily yarn related, a girl’s gotta eat!  This chili has sustained me through many a project, saving me from the hassles of cooking when I’m engrossed in far more interesting endeavours.

A few notes, suggestions, thoughts before getting started …..

I like to add the spices to the veggie/meat mixture and let it all simmer for a few minutes.  I think it enhances the flavours.  Please don’t ask why I add the corn at the end, it’s something my mother does with her chili and I’ve never really questioned it.  I just know it works and the corn is always sweet and crunchy.

Also, around the 1 hour cooking mark, I like to have a taste to see if I’ve made it spicy enough, does it need more salt, etc.  Check throughout the cooking to make sure it has the right amount of kick that you’re looking for.  I’ve found some days I want an extra tbsp of chili powder, some days I think another dash of cayenne is in order.  Chili is one of those fabulous dishes that you can easily adjust to suit your personal tastes.

Chili freezes beautifully when stored in proper freezer friendly containers.  I like to divide it up in meal size portions pulling on out the morning of the day that I’ll need it.

The Chili

3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 medium/large onions, small dice
small head of celery (remove leaves), small/medium dice
1 green bell pepper, small/medium dice
1 red bell pepper, small/medium dice

700 g (approx. 1 1/2 pounds) extra-lean ground beef

5 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp fresh ground kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

*combine these dry spices in a small bowl and set aside.

2 squirts of ketchup (approximately 2 tbsp)
1 ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 cup red wine (merlot, malbec)

1 – 796 ml (28 oz) can of whole, peeled tomatoes, with juices
1 – 796 ml (28 oz) can of diced tomatoes, with juices
2 – 540 ml (19 oz) cans red kidney beans, drained
1 – 540 ml (19 oz) can chickpeas, drained
1 – 540 ml (19 oz) can tomato juice
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 – 341 ml (12 oz) can Niblets corn

In a large dutch oven (this is where I bring out my bad ass Le Creuset cast iron pot – I cook everything in it).  Saute the onion and garlic in 2 tbsp of olive oil on medium-high heat until onion has softened.  Add celery and bell peppers and cook over medium heat until the veggies are softened but still on the firm side.  Add ground beef and cook until meat is browned.  Add spices and mix well to coat the meat and veggies.   Add the ketchup, Worcestershire, Tabasco and red wine.  Mix thoroughly.

Add the whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, red kidney beans, chickpeas, tomato juice and tomato paste.  Stir to mix thoroughly and increase heat to bring the contents to a boil.  Once the chili is bubbling, reduce to simmer and partially cover the pot.  Let cook for 2 – 2 1/2 hours stirring every 20 minutes or so.  Add the corn with your last stir of the pot and continue to cook until the corn is heated.

Serve with grated cheddar cheese, sliced green onion and a dollop of sour cream (full fat of course!) or just eat it as is from the pot.  If I’m feeling a carb-craving coming on, I make some garlic toast to serve on the side.

Enjoy!!!

 

Banana Bread …. It Feeds the Creative Mojo

Getting the creative juices flowing and pouring hours into crafting is hard work and you need a break to re-fuel every once in awhile.  When I am working on a project, be it with hook in hand or on my sewing machine, there is a favourite go-to snack.  In my house, we call it “B Bread”, there’s no need to mention the full word “banana”, that’s wasting time that could be better spent eating.  Pairing beautifully with a tea or coffee, this banana bread is flavourful, moist and you can’t stop at just one slice. As soon as my kid sees a group of three bananas browning on the counter, she gets giddy.

Where did this recipe come from?  Sad to say I didn’t think this beauty up myself.  Back in the early 80s, my elementary school published a cookbook as a fundraiser with contributions from various families.  My mom gave me her copy years ago.  The cover is long gone, her notes are in the margins of food stained, dog-eared pages — all the signs of a much loved cookbook.  It has become a family heirloom of sorts.  With everyone remaining anonymous, I wouldn’t have a clue who the baking goddess is who came up with this recipe but whoever you are, kudos to you!  I’ve tweaked a few measurements and added a couple new ingredients over the years with the same results ~ yum, yum, yum!!

So here you go….

  • 4 tbsp margarine
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed (if on the smaller size, add another banana)
  • 1½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt (table or sea salt will work)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • (optional) ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (toasting the nuts first adds a richer, nutty taste)
  • (my optional my add-in) ¼ cup dark chocolate chips  (sometimes I just sprinkle these on top of the batter before it goes in the oven — satisfies the chocolate craving but doesn’t overpower the banana-ness of the bread)

Note regarding using margarine over butter =  I’ve discovered you can substitute unsalted butter for the margarine, the difference in taste is negligible but even as a staunch butter-lover, I am convinced the margarine does taste better.

Preheat oven to 325ºF, with a rack in the centre.  Using either your stand mixer or hand mixer, cream margarine and brown sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy; add the beaten egg and mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Alternating, add dry ingredients and the mashed bananas in thirds to the creamed mixture mixing each to just incorporate the ingredients, be careful not to over mix.  Use spatula to scrape every last ounce of batter goodness into a well-greased and floured loaf pan and bake 50-60 minutes.  I like to run a knife through the batter to get rid of any air bubbles before baking.  It’s ready when an inserted tooth pick comes out clean.  Leave the loaf in the pan to cool for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto cooling rack to let cool completely.  I don’t think I’ve ever made it to that point without cutting a slice — it’s really tasty still warm but easier to cut a room temperature. Enjoy!

If you have a favourite banana bread or similar loaf recipe, please share! I am in search of a zucchini loaf!