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How Is It Nearly July?

Jana, 6.5 monthsWe’ve been home for a few months now and it’s been a nearly seamless transition to life in the US.  It may have been a different story if we didn’t have our house to come home to, full of furniture and belongings we left behind.  The 3.25 years we spent abroad seems as if it were a bubble in our time line and we’ve slotted right back into place.  Only now as a tiny family.

I find I have days where I don’t even open up my laptop.  I’m not disconnected in any way, I have my trusty iPhone on me always.  My online time allocated to nap times when I’m not joining in on the napping.  Jana is not a sleeper, so I take advantage of those moments when I can steal a few winks for myself.  This also has meant the majority of photos I’ve been taking and posting are camera phone shots.  It’s easy, I have the phone on me always and I can instantly upload the photo or video on the spot.  I do now wish for a point and shoot camera that I can instantly upload from, just so the photos are of a better quality than the generally grainy phone shots.

We’re still not fully settled in since our belongings were delivered at the end of April.  We have a bottleneck for storage in our house.  It’s on the long list of projects Mark is working on during this “sabbatical” from working.  Once the workshop is finished, he has a kitchen to build, crib to fabricate, a dresser to finish, an attic to transform into a walk in closet (access from our room) and eventually a Lake House to build.  What is to be Jana’s room is still full of boxes and an extra two beds.  Our office is an impromtu clothes closet.  It will be nice to have a place for everything and everything in its place when all is said and done.

Here’s where this turn’s into a “Mommy Blog” where I go on and on about this tiny being that has consumed my time and who I clad in all manner of insect related baby clothes (pictured above, a 6.5 month old Jana who has two teeth and has been sitting up on her own for a month now).  As you might have inferred from above, Jana is sleeping in our room in a co-sleeper/bassinet next to my side of the bed.  Her clothes are taking up half of my dresser and the top of which is her changing table.  Mark has a design in mind for the crib, which she will be needing soon, being in the 90th percentile for length, she is outgrowing her current bed.  My dad started the work on the dresser that will be Jana’s.  It was my dresser when I was little and it belonged to my great grandmother.  Under the layers of paint, my dad discovered a gorgeous mahogany piece of furniture.  It will get a treatment to highlight it’s lovely qualities.

Jana at Deer LakesJana continues to delight.  I’ve been cooking up a storm for her as she’s started in on solids.  As people who love to cook and eat, Jana will not have a bland palate from the start.  Everything is new and exciting.  Her first solid was an avocado.  She loves her pears with ginger, her apples with cinnamon, cherries with yogurt, mangoes, blueberries; her peas with zucchini and leeks.  She likes leeks in her other veggies to which I add to make them a little more savory and flavorful.  I made a carrot, sweet potato, chicken curry for her (steamed carrots, sweet potato, chicken, onion and garlic, added cinnamon, ginger, coriander and cumin) which she devours (served with barley cereal and prunes on the side it’s more like a tagine and super tasty!) Today was batch of butternut squash, turkey, garlic and sage that she ate with gusto and ate a lot!  I also cooked up a carrot, beef, onion, garlic and tarragon dinner which is frozen in six portions in tiny cups to try in the coming days.  My freezer is full of these mini portions of fruits, veg and dinners.

I can’t say enough good things about gDiapers, both the disposable inserts and the cloth. We’ve been cloth diapering at home which complements our EC’ing efforts nicely. We go weeks without having to deal with a dirty diaper, as Jana is very good about communicating her need to use the toilet (we started this at six weeks).  The EC’ing has been so easy to do, no complaints here.

Now we just need to get this baby to sleep more consistently.   I’m going on well over seven months of broken sleep (I did not sleep well in the last few months of pregnancy).  This has me in a “zombie mom” sleep deprived state at times. I would love to have more than 2.5 hours of sleep at a time. I feel like Robert Duval in “Apocalypse Now” where adds, “Some day, this war’s gonna end,” in the middle of some unimaginable scene. As I hallucinate in a half awake dream state that Mark can share some hilarious dialogue from if I don’t get around to posting about it, I add, “Some day, this baby’s gonna sleep.”

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Pierogies

After the inspiration hit to make and freeze large quantities of pierogies this past week, I realized I had never actually recorded this recipe. The inspiration hit while I was tagging and labeling the photos from my baby shower, which my mother-in-law had made a batch of home made pierogies for part of the lite buffet. They were so good and I then realized it had been months since Mark and I had had any and we were over due to make some. The nature of the dish and the recipe lends itself to just making a lot and freezing batches.

Rolling out the doughFor the dough, generally use my usual fresh pasta recipe. Mark thought it tasted a little too strongly of olive oil, so for this batch we substituted with vegetable oil.

Pasta Dough

10 oz. flour (by weight)
3 eggs
1 oz. oil

Using a tsp cookie scoop for even fillingI combine these ingredients in my mixer and mix until they just come together in relatively smooth ball, it doesn’t take long at all. I then remove the dough onto a floured surface and gently finish the process until you’re left with a silky ball of dough. Again, this doesn’t take long. Cover in plastic wrap and let the dough rest while you take care of the potato filling.

Potato Filling

There is no great secret to this. Make a batch of mashed potatoes. Then add as much grated cheese as there are potatoes. This particular batch of cheesy potatoes we used two blocks of Red Leicester, one block Double Gloucester and one block of Mature Cheddar.

Over 70 pierogies made = well stocked freezerIt’s not an exact ratio. Keep adding cheese until it’s cheesy enough. Some like only a small amount of cheese (heathens), but we tend to go heavy on it. Longhorn style colby cheese was what we typically used in the US. And if you want a non-traditional pierogie… you can use just about any filling you’d like, from meat, to sauerkraut, to cottage cheese… whatever. I’ve never bothered experimenting… because the nostalgia factor is significant in my enjoyment of the pierogie, anything different is going to have a hard time being better.

Once you have the filling made it is time to roll out the dough. I use my old school hand cranked pasta machine. I divide the dough ball into four and take each portion down through the size thickness 8, 6, 4 and then 3. Lay the sheets of pasta on a lightly floured surface.

Cook until they floatDole out the cheesy potato filling. I use a 1 tsp cookie scoop to ensure even distribution of filling and ease of folding the tasty packages of dough. Space the dough balls an inch or two apart, leaving enough room to fold little packets. Slice the dough between the filling scoops and brush the edges with a little bit of milk, this help seal the dough when you fold it over and pinch the edges together. Any extra dough can be trimmed off and the pile of trimmings can then be re-rolled to a few more pierogies out of the dough.

This is the point you will want to freeze them. I divided them up into bags of 10 pierogies. They may be small, but they are deadly. Five pierogies is a sizable portion.

Toss in pan with carmelized onions and butter, enjoy!To cook and serve you will need to caramelize and onion in butter. Be sure to take the time to properly caramelize the onion, it is well worth it. The pierogies themselves are cooked in boiling water, toss them in and they are finished when they are all floating. I like to just give them a minute or so on the boil after they’ve reached the float. Once the onions are ready add one last pat of butter and add your drained pierogies and toss to generously coat in butter and onions. Enjoy immediately as a side or as we did, as the main meal!

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Wild Boar Pie and Roasted Parsnips

Wild boar pie and roasted parsnipsWell, I couldn’t find wild boar shoulder, so I used diced pork shoulder instead. This was featured on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen, the Saturday morning talk/cooking show that is frequently what we watch over our breakfast. Once we saw all the ingredients going into the pot: pork, lardons, carrots, shallots, mushrooms, topped with puff pastry; we couldn’t resist. Everything for this dish took center stage on my grocery list.

It was a bit time intensive, but the pie filling came together relatively quickly and once it was simmering on the stove, it took care of itself. I added whole garlic cloves, as I’m wont to do. This would also be amazing with beef. It came out the oven looking so gorgeous. I think I really out did myself it was so good!

For the pie filling
1 lb. diced wild boar (pork) shoulder
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup lardons of pancetta
4-5 shallots, peeled and halved
6-7 whole garlic cloves
3 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cups small whole mushrooms
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp plain flour
1/2 cup red wine
2 cups beef stock

For the pastry
plain flour, for dusting
500g/1lb 2oz ready-made all-butter puff pastry
1 free-range egg, beaten

For the parsnips
4-5 large parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil

Season pork with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Brown the pieces in a large pan in batches in a little bit of oil. Once browned set aside in a bowl.

Add pancetta lardons to the pan and cook until some of the fat is released. And carrots, shallots, mushrooms and garlic and fry together for a few minutes. Add the pork back to the pan.

Stir in the flour until everything in the pan is well coated. Add the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom, bring this to a boil and let it reduce by about a quarter. Add the beef stock and simmer gently for 1.5 hours. Let cool 30 minutes before placing into pie dish.

Mixed berry tartRoll out pastry to a 1/4″ thickness. Place filling in pie dish. Brush edges of the dish with beaten egg and crimp the pastry over the top. Brush pastry with egg wash and pierce in the center to allow steam to escape.

Bake at 190°C for 35-40 minutes until pastry is golden and risen.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the parsnips into batons. Toss in a couple Tbs. olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake 20-25 in the oven with the pie, turning them occasionally until golden brown and crispy.

I happened to use some of the extra puff pastry for similarly topped tart mixed berry pies made in small 4 oz. ramekins for dessert as well.

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Sunday Morning Breaky

Raspberries and heart shaped pancakes for breakfastHere I am being sweet and cute making heart shaped pancakes for breakfast, sprinkled with wonderfully tart raspberries. It’s just something small, but it’s one of those small things that demonstrates and says “I love you” to my favorite person on the planet. We’ve been together for eleven years and our days are liberally sprinkled with those small things. I just thought they looked so photogenic on the plate. But it’s just an iPhone shot, I was too hungry to bother with the big camera this morning.

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Bacon Martini

DSC_7584Our dinner this evening was another work of art. This involved pork tenderloin marinated in pineapple juice, garlic and chili pepper. Apricots roasted with honey and orange juice. This was served over chestnut mash consisting of a mix of half potatoes, half roasted chestnuts mashed with butter and a dollop of sour cream. I think this is my new favorite way to prepare potatoes. The chestnuts add a sweet and nutty flavor and keeping them coarsely chopped also add nice texture. The dish was then garnished with a bit of bacon candied with dark brown sugar.

After which, we capped our night off with some mighty attractive and tasty apple and candied bacon martinis that Mark made:

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Twist on a Tradition

Growing up we would always have pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day. Generally this involved kielbasa and pork chops, mashed potatoes and the kraut. This year, I put a twist on that tradition of pork and cabbage. I made bramley apple pork sausages sauteed with caramelized onions and butter, all served over colcannon, which is mashed potatoes with cabbage in it. Although, while caramelizing the onions in the butter, the fantastic aroma filling the kitchen, all it made me really want to have is pierogies. I think I know what we’re having this weekend!

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Today’s Menu

This was the meal waiting for me when I arrived home from work tonight:

Pan fried breast of pheasant served on poached pear.
With two sauces: a shallot, vanilla, and white wine, cream sauce,
and red wine and honey reduction.
Served with roast chestnut mashed potatoes, and garnished with fried baby leeks.

I am one lucky woman to have a husband so inspired to cook!

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Making Snow, Making Snow, Making Snow!

Snowflakes by Deb

I’m missing seeing some snow for the holidays, so I’m making some of my own using the Snow Days site.  I admit it is a little addicting.  It’s also making me want to make paper snow flakes for in our windows as we have no holiday decorations up. Maybe some snow flakes and white fairy lights… five days to Xmas, it’s not too late to decorate right?

shortest day of the yearAlso, happy Solstice! Today is the shortest day of the year, tomorrow begins progress to more sunlight each day, tomorrow will be a whole four seconds longer! When it’s dark out, I feel compelled to hunker down in my pajamas and relax for the night. It’s a little paralyzing on weekends where I like to sleep in until noon, leaving just a few precious hours of daylight. I can’t imagine living any farther north. I think I would end up hibernating!

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Crepes

When I went to search for my recipe in my blog, like I usually do for recipes that are particularly good that I know I must have shared them, I could not find the crepes. How could I not have posted this recipe here? For a while there, I was making them all the time, they are so simple to make, it’s ridiculous. Since I had been making them so often I didn’t need to follow the recipe, I just knew it. This morning, however, I needed to follow the recipe. It’s been months since I’ve made them. Just as with any favored recipe, the frequency of its use waxes and wanes.

This recipe come together almost instantly, in a blender, there’s no need to have the batter rest or any of that business. And as for the old adage that the first couple of crepes cooked are crap, well, to that adage I say, that’s crap. Every single crepe turns out perfectly.

While I was tending to the crepes, Mark, my sous-chef, worked on preparing the fillings, grating mature cheddar, cooking up back bacon rounds (Canadian bacon in the U.S.), slicing the gorgeous strawberries and cleaning up the blueberries (to have with Greek yogurt and honey as filling) . I also whipped up a bechamel sauce for our savory crepes as well.

This recipe makes about 16 crepes.

3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (whole or semi-skimmed)
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbs sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 Tbs melted butter, plus extra for brushing pan

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until batter is smooth (about 10-15 seconds).

Using a pastry brush (I’m a fan of the silicone pastry brush for this) brush bottom and sides of 9 or 10-inch nonstick skillet very lightly with melted butter; heat skillet over medium heat. When butter stops sizzling, pour 1/4 cup batter into pan in a steady stream. While pouring the batter in a stream, you want to be rotating and twirling the pan slowly counterclockwise until pan bottom is covered with even layer of batter. Cook until crêpe starts to lose opaqueness and turns spotty light golden brown on bottom, loosening crepe from side of pan with rubber spatula, 30 seconds to 1 minute. To flip the crepe, loosen edge with rubber spatula and, with fingertips on top side, slide spatula under the crepe and flip. Cook until dry on second side, about 20 seconds.

For our savory crepes, I placed a crepe back in the warm skillet, sprinkled some cheese and some thinly sliced back bacon, allowed the cheese to melt, transferred to the plate and topped with bechamel, green onions and cracked black pepper.

The bechamel you ask? Another recipe I just know and do, but, it’s about 2 Tbs of butter, melted until bubbling, add 1 Tbs. flour and whisk together for a couple minutes to cook the flour (making a simple rue). Once flour has cooked, pour in a little milk at a time of a total of 1/2 cup, whisking all the while. It will get extremely thick and a bit lumpy at first, keep adding milk and whisking until desired consistency. The sauce is finished when once it has come up to a simmer again and is smooth and creamy.

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Dueling Cakes… Yellow Cake.

I’ll see your chocolate cake dear friend and raise you one home made yellow cake with fudgy icing.  I may not be in labour and baking bread and playing DDR while baking my cake, but man, after all that talk I really want some cake.

This particular cake is super moist and so much better than any boxed cake mix.  I’ve halved this recipe for just a single pan of cake, otherwise, I will eat all of this cake, and if there is only half of it at once.  Well, then, I just eat all of half a cake :)

Your Basic Super Moist Yellow Cake:

1 cup butter, softened
1 2/3 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups sifted flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Prepare 2 – 9 inch cake pans with baking spray.

With a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  The longer the better ~5-10 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pans saving the mixer’s beaters and bowl for your husband to lick clean.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Ice with your favorite icing.

Mine is in the oven right now!  Yum!

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Revisiting Blue Bell Woods

On our taxi ride back from the airport we saw them out of the corner of our eyes. Splashes of blue. The bluebells were out in force. That meant we needed to get out again to see them. This time, it was a visit to Philipshill Wood in Chorleywood.

On the motorcycle ride out, we caught glimpses of several dense pockets. I gasped at the sight of some of them. A mere sample of what was to come once we entered the wood. A few words come to mind with this phenomenon. Stunning. Breath taking. Amazing. This truly is an incredible and remarkable natural display. We hiked in, found a clear spot and just sat under the beech trees with their new leaves amongst the blue haze. The sun dappling through the canopy.

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Goat Cheese Medallions

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I love goat’s cheese, I’m a sucker for it.  Having gone out recently to the same restaurant twice and ordering the same starter twice, I was struck with inspiration.  The dish?  It was a salad topped with breaded and fried crispy goat’s cheese (also served with figs and prosciutto).  I was terrified it wasn’t going to work, that I would end up with gooey melted and burning cheese in hot oil.  I researched a few recipes for suggestions on how to accomplish this and in the end this is what I did and it worked beautifully.

Goat Cheese Medallions

1 small log of goat’s cheese
1 egg, beaten
bread crumbs
3 Tbs oil

Slice goat’s cheese into 1/4″ rounds, if it’s a little crumbly just form into small patties.  Place on wax paper and set them in the freezer for a few minutes.  My cheese log made 8 medallions.

Start heating the oil in a small fry pan.  Beat the egg in a bowl and pour a layer of bread crumbs onto a small plate.  Dip each round of cheese in egg and then dip in breadcrumbs.  I used forks to gingerly maneuver the cheese from step to step and gently patted the breadcrumbs to ensure a nice even layer all around.  Prepare all of them before you start frying.  They only take about 30 seconds per side to brown and crisp up.  Fry them in small batches.  Let drain on a rack.

We put these little gems on a lightly dressed spinach salad with a balsamic vinaigrette made with a little honey and thinly sliced shallots.  They were lovely and crispy and melty and contrasted well with the crumbled bacon and dried cherries we sprinkled over the salad.  Yum!  I think they would make a nice topper for a butternut squash risotto as well.

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Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion Risotto

I had tried a similar recipe for a butternut squash risotto involving pancetta and chicken broth. The result was tasty, it made a very bacon-y risotto. But it was one dimensional, bacon and rice. The broth had also become concentrated making the risotto a little salty. This dish had promise. I wanted to highlight the sweetness of the squash and by caramelizing the onions this brought out the right flavor. To counter the sweetness, the tart creaminess of the goat’s cheese adds a wonderful balance.

Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion, Goat’s Cheese Risotto

1 onion, thinly sliced
4 Tbs butter
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup coarsely chopped mushrooms
1 cup rice
1 1/2 cups diced butternut squash
1 cup white wine + 2 cups boiling water
goat cheese
additional 2 Tbs. butter
salt and pepper to taste

Caramelize the onions in half the butter over medium low heat (15-20 minutes). Add mushrooms and garlic with butter and saute for a minute or so until the mushrooms start releasing liquid. Stir in rice until fully coated. Add squash. Add one third of the white wine and water mixture and simmer over medium low heat until liquid is absorbed. Repeat with each third of the liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Once liquid has been absorbed add 2 Tbs of goat’s cheese and 2 Tbs of butter and stir until melted and incorporated.

Served garnished with crumbled goats cheese.

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Scones!

English scones served with tea, clotted cream and jam really is a tasty tasty thing to eat. I made a batch of scones yesterday that were perfectly moist and crumbly, and so easy and so yummy to make, they are sure to become a recurring regular in my repertoire. I used creme fraiche and some Jersey cream in place of the sour cream and milk respectively. Half the batch I left plain and added dried cherries to the other half. I didn’t have any clotted cream on hand, but the creme fraiche did a nice job in its place, especially with the cherry scones.

Easy Yummy Scones

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup white sugar
1/8 tsp salt
5 Tbs unsalted butter
1/2 cup dried fruit of choice
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 Tbs milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Cut in butter using forks or rubbing between your fingers until it is in pea sized lumps. Stir in dried fruit if desired. Mix together 1/2 cup milk and sour cream in a measuring cup. Pour all at once into the dry ingredients, and stir gently until well blended. Do not overwork the dough.

With floured hands (the dough is very sticky), pat scone dough into balls 2 to 3 inches across for your favorite size. Place onto a greased baking sheet, and flatten lightly. Let the scones barely touch each other. Whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon of milk. Brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash. Let them rest for about 10 minutes.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.

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A Taste of England

While we were in the United States we decided to have a themed bbq for Mark’s birthday. The front liner’s of the menu? Fish and chips, complete with malt vinegar. Bangers and Mash. Beans (and toast if you really wanted it). Sticky toffee pudding. Pimm’s and lemonade. Plus a smattering of Hob Nob’s and Jammy Dodger’s that we brought back with us.

The Sticky toffee pudding was a hit, and although at first glance the recipe I used looks a bit complicated, it comes together quickly. I also opted for making them in mini muffin form. This way it was easier to dole out and reheat individual servings with warm toffee sauce and whipped cream throughout the day.

This recipe made ~50 mini muffins.

Sticky Toffee Pudding c/o Epicurious

For the sauce
2 cups whipping cream
1 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter

For the cake
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups chopped pitted dates
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the sauce:
Bring cream, brown sugar and butter to boil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer sauce until reduced to about 1 3/4 cups, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Set aside. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, before using.)

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350

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Mmm Greek Salad

After a week of eating it, we made a dinner consisting of a glorious Greek salad and an improvised tzatziki with pita. We are now so very garlicky!

And with this we watched the really awesome Doctor Who season finale, I’ll give no spoilers here, nope nope!

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Leek and Chickpea Soup

In a plan to incorporate more soup and more chickpeas into our diet, I found this lovely leek and chickpea soup, slightly modified but c/o Jamie Oliver. It’s thick, hearty and satisfying enough to be a meal in itself with some crusty bread. The leeks will wilt down to a quarter of the starting volume, so don’t be alarmed by how much leek there is at the start. These proportions make six servings.

Leek and Chickpea Soup

2 cans chickpeas, rinsed
1 medium potato, diced
5 leeks cleaned and finely sliced
2 Tbs. butter
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (reserve some for garnish)

Boil chickpeas and diced potatoes until potatoes are just tender. While they’re boiling, sauté leeks and garlic in a soup pot with the butter over medium low heat. Once the leeks have wilted down, add drained chickpeas and potatoes and 2 cups of the stock (reserve some stock for later). Bring to a boil and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Using a stick blender in the pot (or remove half and use a food processor) puree the soup, leaving some chunky to maintain a heartier consistency. Add as little or as much of the remaining stock to achieve your desired consistency. Stir in the Parmesan cheese to round out the flavor and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve sprinkled with a little additional cheese and fresh cracked pepper.

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One ball of dough, three meals

I made a batch of fresh pasta dough the other night, 1/4 of the ball went to making fresh ravioli (filled with ricotta, basil, garlic and parmesan), 1/2 the ball last night went towards fresh fettuccine (for a chicken and broccoli alfredo) and the last 1/4 went to making broad noodles for home made chicken soup for lunch today.

I know I posted this recipe before, but, Easy Pasta Dough:

10 oz. flour
3 eggs
1 oz. olive oil
pinch of salt

Pile flour on surface and make a well in the center, put the eggs, oil and salt in well. Working with a fork, start mixing in flour from edges of well, gradually pulling more and more flour into the mix until thick enough to start mixing with hands (or I like using a dough blade to cut in and mix) until it comes together enough to knead. Knead until dough ball is smooth and a little shiny. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 20 minutes. Use as desired.

Now having my old school stainless steel hand cranking pasta machine, I crank out thin sheets of dough and then crank the noodles through. Of which, these noodles only need to cook in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Hooray for having my kitchen equipment here!!

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Ricotta Pancakes

I officially declare these to be my favorite type of pancake. I’ve been making them for months now and just haven’t got around to posting the recipe. Here we are dealing with a couple types of foam, making super fluffy and light cakes with a savory taste (no sugar in this recipe).

The innovation that came out of this recipe, is the preparation of the syrup. Caramelized in the hot pan with butter to create a toffee-like syrup topping.

I halve this recipe to make six ovoid yummy pancakes.

Ricotta pancakes

1 1/3 c. ricotta
3/4 c. milk
4 eggs, separated
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt

Place ricotta, milk and egg yolks in medium bowl, mix to combine.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add to ricotta mixture and mix until just combined.

Beat eggs whites until stiff peaks form. (I usually get these going in the mixer on high while doing everything else). Gently fold egg whites into the batter in two batches.

Lightly butter a non-stick pan, I use a large serving spoon to spoon in one pancake at a time, cooking over medium heat for about two minutes on each side, or until the pancake has become golden and is cooked through.

Hot Toffee Syrup

4-5 Tbs. butter
4-5 Tbs. maple syrup of choice

Once finished cooking the pancakes, melt the butter in the pan. Pour in maple syrup and simmer a minute, it will bubble up as it caramelizes and thickens (and does so rapidly).

Pour over ricotta pancakes while hot and enjoy!

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Creme Brulee

I have made the most perfect creme brulee, which also happens to be one of Mark’s favorite desserts. Even lacking a vanilla bean and substituting with a little vanilla sugar, with the bits of vanilla seed to get that nice speckled look and vanilla extract, I get the flavor I’m looking for. It’s smooth, rich, creamy vanilla goodness with the fun brittle sugar top to crack through with a spoon. This recipe makes four 4 oz. mini desserts.

Yummy and Perfect Creme Brulee

1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar + some vanilla sugar
3 tsp vanilla
3 egg yolks

Preheat oven to 325F.

Bring cream, sugar and vanilla to a simmer to fully dissolve sugar, whisking occasionally.

Whisk yolks in medium bowl until well blended. Slowly add hot cream mixture to yolks while whisking constantly.

Divide custard evenly between four 4 oz. ramekins and place in baking dish and fill dish with hot water half way up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 35 minutes or until just set.

Remove from water bath to cool to room temperature and chill until ready to serve.

Before serving, sprinkle 2 teaspoons sugar evenly over each custard. Working with 1 custard at a time, hold blowtorch so that flame is 2 inches above surface. Direct flame so that sugar melts and browns.

Enjoy!

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Mango and Crab Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

I am a fan of dinner salads in the summer. Something cool and light and also something that doesn’t require a lot of work to put together. Without a recipe to follow, I was inspired by a dinner salad a friend served the other night. A lobster mango salad with a citrus vinaigrette. This is so summery and light and refreshing, I whipped together something similar and quite tasty.

It’s a mixed baby field greens salad tossed lightly with the vinaigrette, topped with a salsa-like combination of diced vegetables and mango topped with the meat. The lobster was a little lack luster, but the salad clearly needs a light protein that tastes good cold and I found that fake crab meat did the trick.

Simple Citrus Vinaigrette

2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. orange juice
1 Tbs. honey
1/4 cup olive oil
Couple grinds fresh pepper

Whisk together all ingredients and lightly toss some of the vinaigrette with mixed baby field greens.

Mango “Salsa” Topping

1 cucumber, seeded and diced
2-3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1-2 mangos, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 tsp. tarragon

Combine diced fruit and vegetables, more or less of each to personal taste and toss in the tarragon, which is nicely sweet and complements the flavors well.

To plate, pile up the baby greens, scoop a generous amount of salsa on, and top with thinly sliced avocado and 1/2 cup of crab meat. Top with additional vinaigrette to desired taste.

It’s light and colorful, tasty, crunchy and just plain pretty.

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Guacamole

Guacamole is crack. The avocado’s I’ve been buying lately have been phenomenal! So small batches of fresh guacamole have been in the menu lately. We had steak with guacamole the other night and frankly my lunch today is just soft flour tortillas piled with said guacamole. Guacamole tacos. Yum!

The way I make guacamole highlights the freshness of all the ingredients and I am not one to include excessive spices (i.e. like cumin that rears it’s ugly head in so many guac recipes) nor do I puree it into a mushy pile of goo.

Increase proportions to the number of avocados being used or to taste.

Per 1 large ripe avocado
1 Tbs lime juice
2 small plum tomatoes seeded and finely diced
1 Tbs finely minced red onion
1 clove garlic finely minced (or squished in press)

For a mess free method of dicing avocado:
– Halve the avocado by cutting lengthwise around the pit and gently twist apart (one half will hold the pit)
– Carefully and firmly strike the exposed pit with the sharp edge of a knife. While grasping the avocado, twist the knife to loosen and remove the pit.

– With a knife slice the flesh, lengthwise and across, while still in the skin (without piercing the skin).
– With a spoon, scoop out the dice.

Dice avocado and toss with lime juice to prevent browning from oxidation. Stir in the rest of the ingredients to desired consistency, I gently toss to keep the avocado in nice chunks, and enjoy!

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Smashed potatoes

I love potatoes as a side dish, particularly mashed potatoes loaded up on butter. But it always seems, no matter how much butter you pile on, and we like a lot of butter, it just doesn’t make the potatoes buttery enough. Adding sour cream boosts the tanginess, but make the potatoes too wet. We’ve found the secret, adding cream cheese. I packs a powerful flavor punch that can’t be beat. This is a particularly colorful potato side with the red skins left on and fresh chives. I have a patch of chives in the backyard, which I snip half inch pieces with kitchen sheers straight into the pot. This recipe makes about 6-8 servings.

Smashed potatoes

2 lbs small red potatoes
1/2 cup cream cheese
2 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. fresh cut chives
Salt to taste

Halve or quarter potatoes so they are of uniform size, skins on. Boil until soft and drain off water. Add the cream cheese, butter, chives and salt and roughly smash together, until combined but still lumpy.

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Caramelized onion and dried cherry sauce/Mustard marinade

I’ve been obsessing over cooking with pork tenderloins, they pan sear and oven roast quite nicely and are not so bad grilled either. Mark and I have both added to our sauce repertoire with a piece of the versatile pork tenderloin as the substrate. This is a recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated , I didn’t have port handy nor did I have the orange marmalade. I substituted pinot noir and raspberry jam respectively. The proportions are approximate, as the dried cherries absorb a bit of the liquid.

Caramelized onion and dried cherry sauce

1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 Tbs. oil
1/2 cup dried cherries
1 glass red wine (pinot noir or shiraz work nicely)
1 Tbs. raspberry jam
2 Tbs. salted butter

In saute pan, add oil and caramelize onions over medium heat. When sufficiently golden brown, add cherries and wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned onion bits off of bottom. If you pan sear the tenderloin, make the sauce in the same pan to pick up the goodness left behind. Stir in jam. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by about half. Remove from heat and whisk in butter one tablespoon at a time.

Serve along side neatly sliced medallions of the tenderloin.
This sauce complements the coarse mustard grain sauce Mark has been making. Well, it’s a marinade that portions of it get reduced on the stove as a sauce:

Mustard marinade/sauce:

1/4 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, divided
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons coarse-grained mustard

Whisk together and marinate the pork (1-4 hours). Pour remaining marinade into a pan and reduce, I added some caramelized onions to this and I think Mark adds a pat of bacon fat for a little more punch in the flavor.

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Fresh Pasta

In recent months I have not opened a single package of dry pasta. I have gotten into the habit of making fresh dough any time we want to have pasta. This is a simple, fast and easy recipe. It’s just about as fast if not faster than using boxed pasta, considering the boiling time to cook is only 2-3 minutes for fresh pasta.

This recipe makes four servings. I will make a batch, cut in in half and wrap one half in plastic wrap to use within a few days. It does change color sitting in the fridge, but turns out just fine and the right color when cooked. Yes, weigh out the flour, that’s what kitchen scales are for. This dough is a little dry for making orrichette, as I found out yesterday, maybe with a little more oil it will work for small hand made shapes.

Fresh Pasta

10 oz. flour
3 eggs
1 oz. olive oil
pinch of kosher salt

Put the flour on a clean surface, I use my kitchen table and make a large depression in the middle, a shallow wide volcano if you will. Crack the three eggs in the center, pour in the oil and sprinkle the salt over everything. With a fork, start to mix working the flour in from the edges. Continue to pull together until thick enough to not run off the table. I use a dough blade to coarsely chop the dough and flour together enough to handle and knead. Knead about for a few minutes until you notice the texture change. It won’t be as crumbly or dry.

Wrap with plastic wrap and let rest. Start your water now. By the time the water is boiling, you’ll be ready to throw the pasta in. Let the dough rest about 15-20 minutes. I take 1/4 of the batch and hand crank it through our pasta maker through the series of thicknesses, down to the thinnest setting. Ours is similar to this one. And depending on my mood, sometimes it’s fettuccine, sometimes it’s vermicelli.

Salt the boiling water and toss the pasta in, it will be done in 2-3 minutes.

This makes a super light pasta. I do my usual thing using a microplane to shave a fluffy pile of fresh parmesan on top and then pour a small pool of sauce in the middle (we don’t like too much sauce on our pastas). I’m a fan of vodka sauce and a serving of garlic bread on the side.

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