Seared Scallops with Cream and Butter Sauce

Seared Scallops with Cream and Butter Sauce

I often ask my family what they would like me to cook for meals.  Our son recently began requesting pulled pork sandwiches because that is one of the school hot lunches he likes.  We let them have a hot lunch once a week at school if they choose for something different.  So I told him that I’ll do that in a few weeks once Thanksgiving has died down.  Unbeknownst to me he requested that from a friend’s mom this week.  He got invited to go a book signing for Diary of a Wimpy Kid and she asked what she should make for dinner.  I don’t think he realises what goes into making these sandwiches!  But she was a great sport and made them.  Awesome.  :)

For last night my husband requested the cream and butter sauce over pasta.  Which I was happy to do but because I’m on very low gluten/gluten free I needed to do something for myself that would allow me to get both dishes done at the same time.  I originally wanted to do some salmon but the salmon at the shop was really sad looking.  However they had some lovely sea scallops.

Instead of pasta I roasted potatoes for my dish.  I made the cream and butter sauce the way I usually do.  In a skillet saute 5 slices of  streaky bacon.  After a few minutes add half an onion chopped.

Seared scallops 1 2014

After the onions have softened add 3-5 finely chopped cloves of garlic and sliced shiitake mushrooms.  Deglaze the pan with a few teaspoons of sherry and stir well.

Seared scallops 2 2014

For colour add some red or orange bell pepper.  While the pasta is cooking prep the scallops by patting them dry on paper towels.

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Heat up a skillet with olive oil and starting searing one side of the scallops.  Because of the bacon involved I seasoned mine with a spicy dry rub.

Seared scallops 4 2014

To get a good sear on the scallops don’t play with them.  Let them be until they freely move in the pan.  Sometimes they will slide round before the sear is complete but definitely don’t try to force them up to flip them over.  Once you have a nice sear turn them over to sear the other side.

Seared scallops 5 2014

I prefer my scallops to not be overly translucent but cook them to the level you desire, just don’t cook them so that they are tough or dry.  To serve I layered the roasted potatoes with the sauce then topped with the scallops.  Grate some fresh parmesan cheese over the dish.

Seared scallops 6 2014

I loved this substitution for pasta.  I felt like I ate enough without that awful stuffed feeling.  And cream and butter sauce is such an indulgence.  I could eat bowls of it!  :)

 

Port Fig Sauce with Roasted Duck 6 2014

Roasted Duck with a Port Wine Fig Sauce

Usually when we watch cooking competitions I will either get inspiration or be really impressed with what they pulled off.  This weekend we watched an episode of Top Chef from season 10 where they had to cook an omelette as a test.  I was not impressed!  None were fluffy and light, many were browned quite a bit, and to top it off Wolfgang Puck showed them the proper technique and his came out browned and not so fluffy either.

It’s a strange feeling that if I was there, I might have passed the cooking test over the established chefs!  With that in mind I thought it would be a great way to start the day of spoiling my husband for his birthday with delicious food.

Port Fig Sauce and Roasted Duck 1 2014

I started dinner off with charcuterie and cheeses as the first course.  For the main course I wanted to use a recipe I came across on Armchair Sommelier for a Port and Fig Sauce with chicken.  I thought this would work very well with roasted duck.

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

In a baking dish place the duck pieces and season with salt and pepper.  I had duck legs and duck wings in the freezer to use up.

Port Fig Sauce with Roasted Duck 2 2014

Bake the duck covered for half an hour.  While this is baking chop up about a cup of dried figs.  In a saucepan bring to a boil the figs, 2/3 cups of tawny port, a cup of water, and 2 tsp of lemon zest.

Port Fig Sauce with Roasted Duck 3 2014

Once it boils lower to a simmer, uncovered.  When the duck is nearly done raise the oven to 400F/205C and uncover the duck.  Remove from the oven when the skin is crispy.

Port Fig Sauce with Roasted Duck 5 2014

Add a couple of tablespoons of duck fat to the sauce, mix well, and simmer for a few more minutes.

Port Fig Sauce with Roasted Duck 4 2014

Because I had to divide the duck with four of us I cut all the meat off of the bones that I could to share among us. Top with the sauce.  I also did roasted parsnips and pan roasted brussel sprouts.

Port Fig Sauce with Roasted Duck 6 2014

We all really enjoyed this meal but I think the next time I make this I will add something to offset the sweetness of the sauce with onions to help balance the sweet along with the richness of the duck.

After this we were too full for dessert so last night we had choux pastry with Bird’s custard, raspberries, my salted spiced rum caramel, and whipped cream.  Yum!

 

 

Spicy Crab Salad with Crispy Shallots from Our Growing Paynes

Spicy Crab Salad with Crispy Shallots

When we were in Austin I had the most amazing raw oysters with a spicy cold “broth” that I would love to recreate but I’m not sure how to be honest.  So instead I would use it as inspiration for a crab salad.

We had a get together with friends that we usually do every autumn this weekend. It’s a potluck so we always eat well and there is always too much food!  A good time to try out a new recipe.  :)

Crab Salad 1 2014

I used the claw meat as it was a lot less expensive than the lump meat and it’s still tasty.  In a small mixing bowl add a few spoonfuls of chilli garlic paste, a few squeezes of lime juice, a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste.

Crab Salad 2 2014

Chill for a few hours in the fridge.  Just before serving thinly slice a shallot and fry in vegetable oil until golden brown.  I chose not to flour the shallots because several of us are doing gluten free or low gluten.  After frying place them on a paper towel to blot the extra grease and season with salt and pepper.

Crab Salad 3 2014

The crab salad can top anything you like.  I used lentil crackers with sea salt.  Funny I really don’t like lentils but these crackers are delicious.

Crab Salad 4 2014

While not quite the raw oysters this was delicious and easy to make.  Which is perfect when you are getting ready to host a party.  :)

Homemade Garlic and Chilli Mustard from Our Growing Paynes

Homemade Mustard with Garlic and Chilli

It’s been a crazy week and today isn’t any different.  We are almost done with the bathroom, I put what I hope to be the last coat of paint on the walls this morning.  I completely spaced on having said yes to making some baked goods for the PTA event tonight so that’s in the oven.  Most of the grocery shopping is done and then it’s an afternoon of getting everyone round to eye appointments.  So this will be a quick post!

Several weeks ago I bought mustard seeds to make homemade mustard.  I finally got round to it this week.  Even though this is incredibly easy you still have to find some time to do it.

I used half brown mustard seed and half yellow mustard seed for this recipe.  I did some research online and found that the basic steps are the same.  Just change up the ingredients to get the flavour you want.

Homemade mustard 1 2014

In a non reactive bowl put in 1/4 cup of brown mustard seeds and 1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds.  Cover with 1/2 cup of white wine vinegar.

Homemade mustard 2 2014

Set aside, covered, for two days.  I ended up going 4 days but it didn’t ruin the recipe so that was lucky.

Homemade mustard 3 2014

For this round I wanted to do a garlic one and a garlic chilli one.  I had oven dried some Ring O Fire peppers from our garden.  That is really easy to do as well.  Bake them at 300F/150C until they are dried.

Homemade mustard 4 2014

This garlic clove turned out to be too much garlic so after finely chopping it I saved half for another dish.  Pour the mustard seeds with the vinegar into a blender and add the garlic and 1 1/2 tablespoons of brown sugar.

Homemade mustard 5 2014

Blend until you get the consistency you prefer.  I removed half of the mustard and stored it in the fridge.  Then I chopped up the pepper and added it to the blender.

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Again blend until you like the consistency.

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I was really pleased at how these came out.  I definitely want to play around with flavours.  A friend of ours in Scotland suggested using whiskey.  The possibilities are endless.

Lamb curry 4 2014

Lamb and Parsnip Curry

After leaving the warmth of Texas I needed to make a warming dish.  We could see snow this week, hopefully it’s just a dusting.  With a prediction of another harsh winter, it can take its time arriving.  I wish autumn didn’t go by so fast.

A curry would do the trick. Not only did the co-op have some lamb they also had some parsnips which I thought would be a nice pairing.

Lamb curry 1 2014

I chopped up half an onion and 4 cloves of garlic.  I sauteed them in avocado oil for a few minutes to soften then added about a cup of chopped parsnip.  Cook for a few minutes more.

Lamb curry 2 2014

Add diced lamb to brown.  Then add 2 cups of vegetable bouillon and bring to a simmer.  Be careful how “hard” you simmer because you don’t want to toughen the meat.  It can be a balance depending on how much time you left yourself to cook the dinner.  Reduce the broth by at least a third.

Lamb curry 3 2014

For seasoning I added a few spoonfuls of Red Thai Chilli Paste, 1-2 tsp of ground tumeric, 1 tsp of garam masala, a bit of cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.  Add some chopped pepper, mushrooms, and fresh cilantro.  Just as it finishes cooking add a few grape tomatoes that have been halved.  Stir well and serve over basmati rice.

Lamb curry 4 2014

It was warming and delicious, just what we needed with the temps getting lower and lower!

Renfest 1 2014

Arrr Matey, Time to Plunder Treasure at the RenFest!

For our second venture to the Texas RenFest we chose the Pirate Weekend and what fun it was!  And in picking an earlier weekend we had our fingers crossed it wouldn’t be as cold as the first time we went.  We still had the set up with the tent, air mattress and electric blanket.  I’m a high end camper.  Then we lucked out the second night as friends who joined us then had a heater safe for tents.  Score!

I had fun picking out my costumes.  How often do you have the chance to be a saucy pirate?  Without getting strange looks?  This was my costume on the first day.

Renfest 1 2014

It is so fun wandering round people watching.  For the most part the costumes are great.  Though this year it seemed that Games of Thrones was popular.  Unfortunately some thought dressing like the unsullied was a good idea.  Just the leather loin clothe and face mask.  Um, no.  Not a good idea!  Saturday was the best for costumes.  For some reason, a lot of people who went on Sunday were in modern clothes.  No fun!

Renfest 2 2014

Aside from food served on sticks and decent beer we go for the shows.  Tartanic is a great one of bagpipes and drums.  I dare you to sit still through that show.  Fabulous music.

Renfest 3 2014

We see Iris and Rose twice when we go to RenFest.  First their regular bawdy show then we go to the last on on Sunday as it is interactive with people contributing jokes, limericks, and the sort.  Here is the thing, I am always amazed at how many people bring their kids to the RenFest.  They do have things for kids but most adults are there to let their hair down which means some costumes are holy moly, and many of the shows are adult themed.  This doesn’t stop some parents though.  All the shows that are not kid friendly will remind the audience of this.  They say this is not for kids.  I have lost count of how many parents just sit there.  And you’ll see some kids just squirm.  I believe that kids need sex education but this is not the way to go about doing it!  But Iris and Rose, if you are old enough, is a must see.  They make your sides hurt.  :)

Renfest 5 2014

The second day of pirating was a bit warmer so that was the corset day!  Our friends were concerned with my Casper the Ghost skin so I got sprayed with very cold sunscreen.  But it did the trick.

Renfest 6 2014

Adam Crack is another fun show.  They added some things to the show so it’s not all whip cracking but still fun.  I would not want to be the assistant because she would hold things in her mouth that he would split with the whip.  No thank you!

Renfest 4 2014

Fireworks are always a big draw.  The first night we sat in the cold to watch them.  The second night we sat by our campfire and looked on from a distant with all our layers on.  The days were warm but once that sun went down, brrr.

One show I didn’t get a picture of was Arsene Dupin.  He is a silent juggler, comedian, and magician from Paris.  He’s genius and always makes us laugh when we go see him.  He doesn’t speak until the end when he introduces himself.  Just an amazing talent.

We’ll be going in a few years again, it’s always a blast.  And I’ll admit, I love dressing up!

Texas Fun 5 2014

Having Fun Deep in the Heart of Texas

My husband and I had a much needed getaway to Texas for the Texas RenFest this past week.  We’re exhausted after it all but it was good to have some fun and let our hair down.  It was also nice to catch up with friends.

Our friends have three horses and a pony and they are characters.  The funniest thing to discover was that there is a 1000lb horse who is an overgrown Murphy.  It’s one thing to see the antics in a 50lb dog but quite another to see it in a horse!

Texas Fun 7 2014

You have to be careful because he’ll leap about with all four hoofs off the ground.  But he is really sweet and like Murphy he just wants to be loved.  Once he is comfortable with you he loves his face rubbed.  I was doing that and he slipped into neutral with just enough energy to try to nibble my ear.  Just like Murphy!

Texas Fun 5 2014

These horses will do anything for a treat, especially carrots.  They see the orange sticks and it doesn’t take long for them to circle round.  At one point Major had carrot orange lips that matched his coat!

Texas Fun 1 2014

There is all sorts of wildlife including this road runner.  Of course my husband quipped it was running from the Wiley Coyote.  Sad to say it took me a second to cotton on.  I must be slipping!

There are bits of Texas that show a kind of raw rough beauty.  I can’t lie, I prefer the rolling hills of the UK or the gorgeous colours of autumn in New England, the lush green, and the four seasons.  The crsipiness of the landscape I find harsh but it gives rise to spots of stark beauty.  This tree was about 200 years old when the drought killed it.

Texas Fun 4 2014

Fortunately most survive and provide small canopies here and there, shelter from the harsh sun.

Texas Fun 2 2014

One spot on their property I’ve never really noticed but should have is under the canopy of a very old and large live oak.  They set up a cosy area for relaxing and grilling.  It’s fabulous!  It’s like an adult fort to hide out in.  I want one.  :)

Texas Fun 6 2014

Of course we found time for good drink and food.  One restaurant we went to is called Sway in Ausin and it’s a modern Thai restaurant.  The food was out of this world amazing.  I had raw oysters for the first time and it had a spicy citrus cold “broth” with crispy shallots and micro greens.  I couldn’t get enough.  And their curries were very spicy but absolutely balanced in their flavour.  I will be trying to recreate some of the dishes.  I didn’t get any photos because I spaced but the lighting wasn’t good enough and they would have been washed out with the flash.

Texas Fun 8 2014

As icing on the cake on a great trip we enjoyed this excellent French hard cider to finish our holiday.  I’ll have to see if we can get it here in NH at our liquor store.

We got back very late Tuesday night and it was back to reality yesterday but it was great to see the kids and now it’s back to the everyday routine.  Until our next adventure.  :)

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 5 2014

Aubergine with Oven Roasted Tomatoes and Steak

I found myself in a bit of a produce pickle the other day.  I went slightly overboard in buying produce forgetting that the kids would be off camping for the weekend.  So I was faced with the task to get rid of the produce in meals so it wouldn’t go bad.

My son loves the zucchini/courgette flans so I thought it would be great to do a zucchini/courgette side as a treat for him.  And I bought an aubergine as the kids requested an Italian meal.

For the zucchini/courgette side I used the spiral cutter again.  So much easier with the softer produce!  Very quick.  :)

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 1 2014

Set that aside and chop up some aubergine.

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 2 2014

In a skillet melt some butter and sear the steak to brown on both sides then finish off in the oven to the desired doneness.  In the skillet add some avocado oil.  Once heated add the aubergine and saute for a few minutes.  Then add some oven roasted tomatoes and a few cloves of chopped garlic.  Add a bit of white balsamic vinegar.

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 3 2014

While the sauce cooks set up another skillet and heat up some more avocado oil.  Toss in the zucchini/courgette spirals.  Season with sea salt, pepper, and a few splashes of white balsamic vinegar.

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Slice the steak and stop with the aubergine sauce.  Grate fresh parmesan cheese and serve.

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 5 2014

I even liked the zucchini/courgette which is unheard of!  But I noticed my son wasn’t touching the zucchini/courgette.  Apparently the only way he likes it is in the flan.  Sigh.  Fortunately my daughter couldn’t get enough so it didn’t go to waste. Sometimes it is hard to keep up!

Sweet potato pasta 6 2014

Sweet Potato “Pasta”

There are so many food fads swirling round, one of which is to use veg as a pasta substitution.  As I’m in the middle of a gluten free month it made sense to hop on this particular bandwagon.  Not sure how this experiment is going.  The initial pain free days have started to slide back.  And I did trip up here and there because there are hidden sources of wheat seemingly everywhere.  Including vodka!  I knew most vodka was grain distilled but I spaced it.  Now I’ve switched to potato vodka but they don’t really have flavoured potato vodka so the next step is to figure out how to flavour my own.

My sister gave me a spiral cutter for veg this year.  It’s a fun gadget for things like curly fries.  And it’s perfect to make “pasta” with the sweet potato.

Sweet potato pasta 1 2014

There is a bit of elbow grease needed to do this with sweet potato as it is pretty firm.  Actually my husband helped me out with this bit.  :)

Sweet potato pasta 2 2014

In the skillet heat up some olive oil and soften a small chopped onion and a few cloves of garlic.

Sweet potato pasta 3 2014

Add in chopped pepper and mushrooms.  After a couple of minutes add the sweet potato.

Sweet potato pasta 4 2014

Add a cup of chicken stock and a cup of tomato sauce of your choice.  We had some arrabiata sauce to use up.  Stir well and cover to cook the potato.

Sweet potato pasta 5 2014

While this was cooking I did up some chicken for the non seafood lovers and some salmon for the rest of us.  I kept it simple and baked the salmon.  I also roasted potatoes as a side dish.

Sweet potato pasta 6 2014

I got a thumbs up all round even from my daughter’s friend who isn’t a fan, like me, of sweet potato.  :)  And I have to say this was even better after a day or so for leftovers.  The flavours really came together.

Butternut squash 3 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash Curry Soup

Squash is another group of food I don’t like.  I know, I have a long list!  But a few weeks ago we had a family get together and my sister made a curry squash soup.  I tried  it and liked it!  But she didn’t really have a recipe.  I swear it’s genetic.  We are lucky my Grammy wrote her recipes down because the rest of us have trouble making the same thing twice.  In fact my blog has ended up being a great thing for me.  When my family asks me to make something I’ve made before I bring it up on my iPad and away I go.

I know the soup I made is different from my sister’s because the soup she made was green and mine isn’t.  So I used hers as an inspiration.

Butternut squash soup 1 2014

I thought roasting it would be fabulous so I sliced it in half, drizzled it with olive oil, and seasoned it with sea salt and pepper.

Butternut squash soup 2 2014

Roast in the oven at 350F/175C until it has softened and turned a nice golden colour.

Butternut squash 3 2014

In a saucepan saute finely chopped garlic and scallions in olive oil.  I used about 3 large garlic cloves and a cup or so of the scallion.

Butternut squash soup 3 2014

Once the garlic and scallions have softened scoop out the squash and add it to the saucepan.

Butternut squash soup 4 2014

I added 2 cups of chicken stock.  Add more or less depending on the consistency you prefer.  Add 6-8 ounces of coconut milk. The rest of this recipe completely depends on the taste you want.  Some prefer to have a lot of squash flavour.  Me?  Not so much.  :)  We really enjoy red thai curry flavour so I added several spoonfuls as a start.

Butternut squash soup 6 2014

I continued by adding a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes, a couple of teaspoons of cumin, and a healthy portion of hot curry powder.  Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.  I wanted to keep this rustic so I didn’t blend the soup.

Butternut squash 7 2014

It was very warming and now I can say I have one squash dish I like!  Question is, am I bold enough to try another?  :)