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Nothing Beats Family Time!

It’s hard to believe it is that time of year again. We pack up the kids and head to Lake Champlain to celebrate my dad’s birthday. It’s been a whirlwind summer for the kids so it gives us a few days of downtime. This year we had my sister and her family join us so it was a treat for our dad.

The tricky part was there were 11 of us at the RV during the rainstorm! Fortunately the weather improved and it was absolutely gorgeous! Plus my dad got a large new grill and I got to break it in. What fun!

Per tradition we usually do something with the kids on our way back. Because we didn’t have a lot of time we decided to check out the rail trails in Burlington along the lake.

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Along the shore they have placed carved stones showing dragons, mermaids, roller skates, and the like.

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We walked about 3.5 miles round trip. It was so refreshing with the wind blowing the cobwebs away. There was even a pseudo stone henge!

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Of course we worked up an appetite so we found a restaurant that played really cheesy island music. Who knows why when there is some great music out there. Thank goodness the food was very good! And we got to enjoy the boats coming in and out. I miss the sailing my family did when I was a kid. So many memories. For now I get my fix boat watching.

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After lunch we drove to another park that led to the beach so the kids could dip their toes in and practice stone skipping.

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It was a wonderful weekend catching up with family and hanging out with the kids. Hard to believe school starts next week and then we’re back into a routine again. Wish we could slow summer down!

Apricot chutney 7 2014

Apricot Chutney

My husband and I joke about hoping the mould was broken when Murphy was born.  I mean he’s a wacky dog.  It looks like the mould wasn’t broken!  I have started volunteering at the local humane society by walking dogs and playing with them.  There is one puppy, a very large puppy, that is just all over the place. Reminded me of how Murphy was when we first got him.

It is fun volunteering there as I get my fix for the dogs and cats without actually bringing them home.  Our house is full enough! 

It’s apricot season!  So it’s time to make our apricot chutney.  It was a shorter season than normal this year, I think because of the harsh winter.  There are rumblings that we are facing another harsh winter.  My tolerance for this is getting less and less!

This is done over two days, nothing too difficult but it is time consuming on some of the steps.  I have no idea where we got our recipe.  We have a print out but it doesn’t say who’s it is.  This is our version of it.

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Dice 3 1/2 pounds of apricots, 3 small onions, 5-6 garlic cloves, and 4 ounces of dates.

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Place these ingredients into a big pot.  Add 3 inches of fresh ginger grated, 1 1/2 teaspoons of whole cloves, 1 teaspoon of whole allspice, 1 1/2 teaspoons of black peppercorns, 2 teaspoons of tumeric, and 2 teaspoons of mustard powder.

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Add two cinnamon sticks and 1 chopped hot pepper.  We used Ring O Fire from our garden.  Also add 2 teaspoons of sea salt.

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Add 4-6 oz of malt vinegar and bring the heat up to medium.  Once it gets to a roiling simmer lower the heat to medium low.  You want to stir frequently because you don’t want it to stick on the bottom.  If it is dry add a bit more vinegar.  Once the apricots have broken down a bit and softened add 7 oz of raisins along with the zest of 3 lemons and their juice.  Our chutney got to this point at about 45 minutes but it can take up to an hour. 

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If the apricots are pulpy enough add 8 oz of brown sugar.  Stir well and bring back up to a simmer.  Once it thickens like a jam cover and remove from the heat.  Allow to sit overnight.  The next day add 4-6 oz of brown sugar and simmer until the sugar is dissolved.  If the chutney is too stiff add a bit more vinegar.  Sterilise the jars you need and then spoon in the chutney.

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After hand tightening the lids on, process the jars for 10 minutes.  Allow the chutney to be stored in a cool dry place for a couple of months to allow for the best flavour. 

This is great on naan, over rice, or with a cheese plate. 

Mexican street corn 4 2014

Mexican Street Corn

I wonder sometimes about how bad my “senior” moments might get when I am actually a senior. We all have them.  But there are times where I just want to do a facepalm.  The gas for our grill ran out this weekend so we had to go to the home improvement store to switch out the tanks. And we figured we’d get a couple of things while we were there. 

Off we went.  We could remember the couple of things but we knew we were forgetting something.  We racked our brains all the way to the store, finally it came to me.  The gas tank!  Honestly, the whole reason we were going there in the first place.  And being used to grilling in the summer it was weird the past few days not having that tool to use.  But we’re back in business!

I’ve been wanting to try to make Mexican street corn for a few months after my husband had tried it during a trip to Texas.  I was surprised it had mayo as my husband generally avoids mayo but he said it really worked with this dish.  After checking many recipes I realised that it was pretty basic across the board but I chose this recipe as a reference. 

The queso was very expensive and I couldn’t find cotija cheese.  So I did a bit of research at the store, isn’t technology wonderful?  Parmesan is a good substitute for aged cotija cheese and you can use it for this recipe.  For the softer cotija cheese a good substitute is feta so I bought that.  Buy the crumbled version as it just takes out a step. 

Fire up the grill and once it is very hot start grilling the corn in the husk that has been soaked.  In the meantime prep the ingredients.

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Finely chop a good handful of cilantro.  I was only doing two corn cobs so I did about 2 tablespoons worth.  Also prep about 1/2 a cup of the feta making sure the crumbles are small and fine.  After about 10 minutes on the grill remove the husks and put them back onto the grill to roast.

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Remove once the corn is cooked and spread butter around the corn so it melts in.  Then spread mayo over the corn.

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Sprinkle the corn with chili powder and the cilantro.  Press the cheese around the corn.  Sprinkle more chili powder to taste.

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Serve with lime wedges to squeeze over the corn.  I have to say the mayo really works with this.  I’ll have to make this for the kids when they get back from camp.  With putting the salad together and doing the corn it took about a 1/2 hour to make so it’s a great dish when you are busy. 

Gooseberry shortcake 4 2014

Gooseberry Shortcake

Gooseberry season is too short!  So we have to make the best of it when we can.  We do the usual crumbles which my son loves because he gets to make the topping.  :)

For our last batch of gooseberries I thought I’d do something different.  I’m a fan of the good old strawberry shortcake but I thought I’d mix it up and do a gooseberry shortcake. The tartness would be perfect with the whipped cream. 

I got lucky with the shortcake as I didn’t follow the steps in this shortcake recipe.  I was rushing about and just threw the ingredients in.  Oops.  It came out a bit denser than usual but still tasted good. 

What I did was mix 2 1/4 cup of flour, 4 tsp of baking powder, 2 T of sugar, 1/4 tsp of salt, 1/3 cup of vegetable shortening, 1 beaten egg, 2/3 cup of milk in a bowl. 

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You are supposed to cut in the shortening into the dry ingredients then add the milk and egg.  Which I know to do!  You would have thought this was my first rodeo.  Bake the dough in an 8″ greased and floured pan for 15-20 minutes in a 425F/220C oven. Meanwhile make the gooseberry jam sauce.

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Add about a 1/4 cup of water to the gooseberries and bring to a simmer.  As the gooseberries start to burst add a 1/4-1/2 cup of brown sugar, stir well, and simmer until it thickens.

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When you are ready to serve slice the shortcake and layer the gooseberry and whipped cream.

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A super easy dessert to make when you want a delicious treat.  :) The plates were cleaned pretty quickly!

Roasted tomatillo salsa 8 2014

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa and Tacos with a Cuban Flair

Our tomatillos are coming along like crazy so it is time to pick them and make delicious food.  There isn’t any way to use them all at once so I’ll be freezing a bunch this week to keep up with it all.  We had roast pork left over as well as the marinade from the Cuban sandwiches I made so I thought with these ingredients and a tomatillo salsa we’d have a delicious dinner.

I enjoyed puttering about the kitchen making the various components to this dish.  First on the list were the easy tortillas.  Though it is hot work in the summer!  I found this tomatillo salsa recipe that was easy to make and needed some hot peppers.  Which are ready to pick in our garden!

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Remove the husks of about a pound of tomatillos, rinse and slice them in half.  Place them face down on a baking sheet.  Add two jalapenos and two cloves of garlic with the skins still on.

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Broil until the three ingredients are charred.  Keep an eye on them while broiling as you don’t them to be charcoal!

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The original recipe calls for using a mortar and pestle.  One I don’t have one and two I’d rather have this quick and easy.  I do have, however, a blender!  Top the peppers, skin the garlic, and remove the toughest char on the tomatillos.  Add this to the blender.  Slice about 1/4 of a small onion and two tablespoons of fresh cilantro.

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Add the juice of half a lime.

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Season with salt then pulse in the blender.

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The hard part is over!  Not that it’s been that hard up to now.  :)  For the tacos prep the veg you want in the dish.  In addition to the mushrooms, onions, and sweet pepper I picked a Ring O’ Fire pepper and a poblano pepper.

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I sliced up the remaining pork and sauteed it with the onion in a little bit of olive oil.

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Add in the peppers and mushrooms and saute for a couple of minutes.  Then add about 3/4 cup of the marinade and simmer until the sauce reduces by more than half.  Spoon some down the middle of the tortilla.

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Sprinkle shredded cheese over the filling and spoon the tomatillo salsa over the cheese.

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Add the sour cream and enjoy!

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The tomatillos worked really well with the citrus of the marinade.  A bit messy to eat though!

 

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Cuban Sandwiches and Getting Introduced to Parenting

Watching the movie Chef reminded me of how much our daughter loves Cuban sandwiches.  It also brought me back to her seventh birthday party.  My kids were the first kids I met in a relationship, a whole new ball game. 

They always say that you should wait to meet the kids but we didn’t.  My husband and I knew right away we had something and I met the kids pretty quickly as a friend.  Though we have very bright kids, they knew I wasn’t fly by night even though our son was 3 1/2 and our daughter was just shy of her 7th birthday.  Aside from the fact that I didn’t want things screwed up because I recognised I found the one, I really didn’t want the kids to get screwed up if the adults went south.  Obviously it didn’t play out that way.  :)

I was very lucky I met them at that age, I still got to do story time at bedtime, fort building with pillows, and the kids birthday parties.  The first birthday party was about 6 weeks into the relationship so I was nervous.  Do I get her something, what do I get her, small gift, big gift? I found her a craft sewing kit that allowed her to make dolls clothes.  She loved it.  :) Plus we weren’t at the drop off phase of birthday parties so there was going to be a boatload of people to meet.  I had met a few people in my husband’s circle but with parents and kids we probably had about 30 people in the house. 

When I got to the party I asked what I could do for help and I was tasked with making the Cuban sandwiches.  Great, never made them before and these were my daughter’s favourite.  No pressure!  I managed it and we all had fun with the party, along with many more.  We did have some trip ups with birthday parties.  We made the mistake having 8 girls sleepover for our daughter’s 8th birthday.  Don’t ever do that.  Ever.  Luckily our windows didn’t crack with the continuous high pitched screeches. 

For old times sake I wanted to make the sandwiches for the kids before they went off to overnight camp.  Had to get good food into them!  Normally we buy roast pork along with the other ingredients but I wanted to make it special.  I used this roast pork recipe as the base with slight adjustments. 

This is a good recipe for the weekend as it takes a bit of time. 

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For the marinade I mixed 3/4 cup orange juice, juice of half a lime, 1/2 a tablespoon of ground cumin, 1/2 tablespoon of dried oregano, a tablespoon of olive oil, 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes, 1/2 a cup of chicken stock, and half a small onion finely chopped.  Mix well.

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I bought a pork shoulder that was just over a pound.  Season with salt and pepper and pierce the meat with a knife on both sides to allow the marinade to really flavour the meat.  Marinate a half hour on each side.

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I don’t know that we can get Cuban rolls round here, I’ve never seen them but my husband made ciabatta bread for this.  This was the best batch so far that we’ve baked.

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Roast the pork at 325F/165C.  Keep it covered for 45 minutes than uncover and continue cooking until the internal temp is 150F/65C and let it rest for at least 10 minutes.  Then it’s time to assemble the sandwiches.  Slice the ciabatta and lay it out.  Spread mustard of your choice onto the bread.  I like using the garlic stone mustard.  Layer the ingredients starting with swiss or jarlsberg, then the roast pork.  Then spoon some of the garlic and onion from the cooked roast over the pork.  Add pickle then the ham.

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Butter the outside of the sandwiches and either cook them in a panini press or on an iron cast griddle using and iron cast press.  Press down on the sandwiches as they cook.  Cook until the sandwiches are about half the starting size, they are golden, and the cheese is melted.  Serve immediately.

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After making this I don’t think I can just buy roast pork again.  It is so much better homemade and the citrus with the garlicky heat is wonderful with the rest of the ingredients. 

 

Grilled leeks 3 2014

Grilled Leeks and Dealing With Customer Service

We all have those days where one thing is planned and after a few left turns you end up with something completely different. 

I had planned to do the oven roasted tomato sauce with pasta that I made last week.  I have an irritating quirk that I’ll take the time to make a grocery list and still forget something.  This time I forgot pasta.  I had to come up with plan b as our pasta attachment is making weird loud noises.  Not a good sign!

So I decided to do grilled leeks, the oven roasted tomato sauce over grilled steak, and roasted potato medallions. 

As I was prepping the food for the grill the skies opened up and sheets of rain just poured down.  I thought I was heading for plan c thinking I’d have to grill them on the stove top.  Workable but just not the same.  Fortunately at the last minute the skies cleared.

I kept the steak simple with just salt and pepper as I was going to use the sauce with it. 

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Cut the leeks to size and coat them in some olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.  The ratio is 2 to 1.  Season with salt and pepper. 

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The leeks need to be grilled on medium heat, turning them as they cook.  Sear the steak on high heat.

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Then I nearly derailed dinner again.  I got my mobile phone bill and saw they were overbilling me.  Whenever we travel overseas I get an international plan for the time we travel.  I call when we get back I call to get the plan canceled and prorated.  I’ve never had trouble with this before but they didn’t do as I asked so I made the mistake calling while I was finishing dinner.  It should have been a five minute call to be done while the steak was resting.  Wrong!  I had the bad luck of getting someone with a bad attitude and not the brightest bulb.  So while I was alternating being on hold and trying to get a supervisor I was plating and taking pictures.  Not the best combo!

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And I missed most of dinner with the family which, while my fault for calling, wasn’t cool!

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I did get a good resolution with someone else in the end and I got a thumbs up from the family on the sauce with the steak and the grilled leaks.  Just could have done without the twisty turns.  :)

Leek and mushroom pastry 9 2014

Leek and Mushroom Puff Pastry

Our kids are coming home tomorrow!  They’ve been gone for nearly two weeks visiting grandparents in Florida.  While I’m thrilled they are having a blast swimming, getting ice cream, and being goofy, they are missed.

I asked what they are requesting for dinners for the few days they are with us before they dash off to overnight camp.  My son is asking for chicken cordon bleu.  And my daughter would love something Italian.  I think I can handle these requests.  :)

When I posted about the roasted veg with crepes I said there was another dish to post about from the French restaurant we went to at Terminal 3 Heathrow.  I did find out what the restaurant was called, it’s Oriel Grande Brasserie.  My husband ordered a puff pastry dish with leeks, mushrooms, and goat cheese.  It was delicious so I knew I would try to recreate it.

I confess I buy the puff pastry.  I do want to try to make some but I can get decent store bought and it’s one of the few ingredients I buy so what the heck.  :)  For this dish I used the puff pastry shells which need to be baked ahead of time.  Follow the directions given.  For mine I baked them at 425F/220C for about 20 minutes.

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Set aside. This recipe is for two servings. In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil and saute 6 sliced mushrooms.

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I wanted a nice roasted flavour from the mushrooms.  As Julia Child taught the best way to do this is not mess about with the mushrooms.  In other words, don’t stir.  After the mushrooms are sauteed for a minute or so, let them “roast” on each side until browned.  In the meantime, finely chop 2 cloves of garlic and add to the skillet with a 1/4 cup of dry white wine.

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After a few minutes add a 1/4 cup of chicken stock and about 3/4 cup of sliced leeks.  Bring to a simmer.

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Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.  Once the liquid reduces about half add a dollop of goat cheese and melt it into the sauce.

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Spoon into the pastry shells and grate fresh Jarlsberg or a similar cheese on top.

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Bake until the cheese is melted and golden.   The side dish that was served when my husband had the dish was a potato salad of some sort over greens.  I roasted some potato in olive oil seasoned with salt and pepper.  I served it over mixed greens with a lemon thyme dressing.

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This was a light summer meal but would also be great as a starter or a party dish.  I really wish my son liked mushrooms as I’d like to make this for the kids.  It would be hard to pick round the mushrooms though!

Grilled carrots 2 2014

Something New to Grill – Carrots!

I love grilling season and have tried several things when it comes to veg.  The normal things like corn, peppers, onions.  Love grilling mushrooms but I came across a post by Farm to Table Life for grilled carrots

I was intrigued.  And as they said in their post, why haven’t I tried this before?  And I’m also wondering what else I can grill. 

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Mix a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, and some chopped rosemary.  Season with salt and pepper.  Wash and dry the carrots.  Lightly coat the carrots with the marinade.  Heat the grill to about 350F/175C.

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Grill until it is cooked the way you like.  Some like them firm like I do and some like it cooked much softer.  Do turn them as they cook keeping in mind that smaller ones will cook faster.

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Serve immediately.  I really enjoyed this and will make it again. And the colours really pop.  What do you grill that might be unusual?

Blackcurrant bars 6 2014

Blackcurrant Bars – On The Tart Side Of Life

We are looking at a blow for freedom as my mum likes to say.  What is it you ask?  Why getting rid of cable!  The bane of many of us.  I’m sure many of you have heard loads of horror stories lately about what happens when customers try to cancel the cable.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that we won’t have issues.  But it’s time to cut the cord as they say.  We only watch a handful of channels so it isn’t economical to have it.  Today we’ve been testing a digital antenna all round the house to find the best spot.  Where we live, we only get PBS but that is fine because with Hulu Plus and Netflix, we are pretty much covered.  The dogs spent the day looking at us funny while we stood in different rooms seeing if there was any improvement!

This weekend we also had a fun date night and went to see the movie Chef.  I really liked that movie.  Aside from a display of fabulous food the music was outstanding!  It was hard not to get up and dance. 

All the blackcurrants have been picked now.  I froze a bunch for later in the year but I saw a link to blackcurrant bars.  When I went to pin it it said it was a spam link but it sparked an idea.  I used my mother’s date bar recipe for the bar portion of it and then made up an apple blackcurrant jam. 

I did the jam ahead of time because the week got a little nutty.  Okay, a lot nutty.  Thank goodness for weekends!  But you can make the jam just before you bake the bars. Either way is fine. 

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In a small saucepan add a cup to a cup and a half of blackcurrants and a diced apple.  Add about a 1/4 cup of water and a few splashes of lemon juice.

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Bring to a simmer and allow to simmer until the fruit breaks down while stirring frequently.  Add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of brown sugar depending on your taste.  Some like it to be really tart. 

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When you are ready to bake preheat the oven to 375F/190C.  Melt 6 tablespoons in a small bowl.  In another bowl mix 1 cup quick oats, 1/2 cup sugar, 3/4 cup flour, and 1/2 tsp of baking soda.  This is half the recipe of the date bars as the jam amount for the black currant is about half of what the date bar has.  Add the melted butter and mix well.  Press half into the baking tin.

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Spread the jam over the oat mixture.

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Put the rest of the oat mixture over the jam and bake for about 25 minutes until golden.

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This was definitely tart!  But my husband loved it.  :)

Wish me luck with the cable company!