Carrot ginger soup 4 2014

Carrot Ginger Soup

The sun will be starting it’s journey back our way today.  This makes me happy.  I’m not a fan of the shorter days.  After getting tired of not being seen walking the dogs we bought them LED lights to hang from their collars.  They are super bright so that should help with the close calls trying to get across the roads. Luckily they don’t seem to bother the dogs and they have an added benefit of lighting up the area they are sniffing so I can see if they are about to eat something they shouldn’t!

With all that has been going on the past few weeks I lost track what was in the fridge.  I have a bad habit of buying ingredients when we already have them because I don’t see them in there!  At some point we bought a bunch of carrots and I needed to use them up.  I have been wanting to try a carrot soup.  It’s funny growing up the only way I liked carrots was raw.  But tastes change.

I should say I only liked organic ones.  I don’t know what it is but conventional carrots are always dry to me and not as sweet.  I know for most things the taste difference isn’t huge between organic and conventional but things like tomatoes and carrots I find a big difference.  Organic carrots seem to have more water and sweetness to them.

I found this carrot soup recipe that looked really good and adjusted it to the number of servings we needed.  Their recipe said it would be 8 servings but I made what I thought was enough for 4 but it was really closer to 8 so who knows how much soup the original recipe would have made.

Carrot ginger soup 1 2014

Finely chop a 1/4 of a large red onion and saute in about 2 tablespoons of butter.

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While the onion is cooking peel and slice 3-4 medium sized carrots.  You want at least two cups of sliced carrots.  I think I ended up with nearly 3 cups.  Add them to the onion and stir well then add 2 cups of homemade chicken stock.  As it is coming to a boil grate about 2 inches of fresh ginger into the soup, season with salt and pepper, then stir well.  Simmer until the carrots are tender and cooked.  This took about 45 minutes for the carrots I had.  Then use an immersion blender or a regular blender to blend all the ingredients.  Put back on the heat and add 1/2 a cup of heavy cream.

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Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed and warm up as needed.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

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Full of flavour without much difficulty.  I discovered a few days later that it was very good cold as well so I will be having this in the summer as a light meal or a first course.  If I had some I would have garnished this dish with chives and the chive flowers.  Another thing to add in the summer when the garden is flourishing.  6 more months!  Not that we’re counting or anything.  :)

Filet with Oven Roasted Tomato 4 2014

Home Cooked Food – A Cure for Long Travels

It’s been a very busy year for my husband with business trips and he just did two weeks to close out the year.  It was a tricky time though, what with the kids’ Christmas concerts, teacher conferences, and the like.  Thank goodness for technology as I was able to record a few of the songs the kids did and we could have him on speaker phone so he could be part of the conference.  Which is wonderful as he hates to miss this stuff.

As you can imagine he misses the home cooked food as well.  Two weeks of sandwiches and so so hot food begins to wear a person down. So a special meal was called for.  I was ready for it too because the second week was a kid free week and I don’t really cook for myself so it was fun to get creative again.

For the first course I did a cheese plate and opened a bottle of a lovely red wine.  For the second I wanted to have some of his favourite ingredients.  Roasted parsnips and pan sauteed Brussels Sprouts were no brainers.

At Thanksgiving I was able to pick up beef tenderloin from the farm where I got the turkey.  I now have more of an appreciation of the labour that goes into perfect looking filet mignon.  My knife skills being what they are mine didn’t come out perfect but they weren’t too bad.  But there is definite room for improvement!

I purchased some grape tomatoes and I sliced them in half.  On a baking sheet add the tomatoes, pieces of garlic, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper then bake at 300F/150C.

Filet with Oven Roasted Tomato 1 2014

Bake for about 45 minutes.  Unfortunately the garlic didn’t cooporate and for some reason they came out hard as rocks.  So I chopped up more garlic, added some more olive oil into a skillet then sauteed this with the tomatoes.  Meanwhile broil the beef seasoned with salt and pepper to medium rare.  For meat that is 2 inches thick do 5 minutes on each side.  Mine was thinner so I did it for less.  Then rest the meat for at least 5 minutes.  While the meat is resting, add a handful of shredded basil to the tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon juice.

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Top the beef with the tomato mixture and serve.

Filet with Oven Roasted Tomato 4 2014

It was such a lovely evening catching up with my husband.  I miss him when he’s gone and there is always so much to share.  Of course I had to step back to make room for the homecoming the dogs gave him!  Goodness me it was like a pair of dolphins leaping about, quivering with excitement.  He was licked within an inch of his life!  LOL.

 

Deviled eggs 8 2014

Put the Devil in the Eggs for the Holidays

Every year I worry there is enough food for the holidays then I end up being confronted with a stuffed fridge.  And coming up with many ways to creatively empty said fridge.  But as the family’s dietary needs change there is a challenge of making sure everyone has something they can eat without making them ill.

One has to follow the fodmaps diet and she loves eggs so I thought it would be fun to dust off a classic and update it a bit.  We used to love the deviled eggs that mum made when we were growing up.

I had to make sure that at least one of the ways I made them didn’t have any garlic.  Because I planned on using my homemade mustard I had to make another variation.

After doing a bit of research on the internet, because it’s been years since I boiled an egg, I got to it.  I did the eggs the day before so they were chilled completely when it was time to peel and make up.

Various sites gave me the following steps to take to cook the eggs.  First place the eggs in an empty pan.

Deviled eggs 1 2014

Fill with cold water until the eggs are covered.  Add a bit of salt and white vinegar.  This helps contain any egg whites that might leak if the shell breaks.  Bring to a boil and turn off the heat and leave the eggs in the water for 10-12 minutes.

Deviled eggs 2 2014 Deviled eggs 3 2014

Place the eggs in cold water to cool down.  When it is time to put it all together, peel the eggs.  I found it worked best for me by whacking the eggs round to crush the shells a bit then peel.  Slice the eggs in half.

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Scoop out the yolks into a bowl.

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For the fodmaps version I added a couple of spoonfuls of plain greek yoghurt, a few teaspoons of horseradish, fresh thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

Deviled eggs 6 2014

Mix well and adjust the ingredients as needed.  Some of us like the punch of horseradish!  Fill in the egg whites with the mixture.  For the second version I added a few spoonfuls of the plain greek yoghurt, a few dollops of mustard, fresh thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Again mix well and add it to the egg whites.  For the mustard deviled eggs I dusted them with cayenne pepper to give it a bit of a pop.

Deviled eggs 8 2014

This starter was a simple way to add a ton of flavour to the menu and make sure it met all the various dietary needs without a lot of effort.

Sage pear turkey 5 2014

Sage Pear Turkey

How did it get to Saturday already?  Where did this week go?  My husband is travelling for two weeks and I’ve had the kids this week.  It’s been a whirlwind of band practice, concerts, tennis practice, and herding the pets.  Plus the tax office is starting up with some things and suddenly it’s Saturday.  I hope next week goes by just as fast because then my husband will be home. :)

We had a lovely Thanksgiving but we delayed it a day because a snow storm blew through the night before the actual holiday.  We were lucky because we didn’t lose power but a lot of people did and they were stuck with all that food and no way to cook it.  Some got creative and fired up the old grill.

As usual we order our turkey from a local farm.  Usually we order it from Mayfair Farms a few towns over.  When we don’t it’s because I flaked and waited too long.  This year I didn’t, I ordered early and asked for a small turkey, about 12-13lbs.  Yes, that won’t be a problem, I am on the list!  Pat on the back and all.  Well, best laid plans and all that because the turkeys turned out to be even healthier and hungrier than planned.  Our turkey ended up being 17.56 lbs!  Holy moly.  So I quickly put out the word to my family members to bring containers.  Did any of them do that?  Absolutely not.  Sigh.

As I drove out into the woods to pick up our bird it started snowing and by the time I got to the farm it was really pretty.

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Craig and Sarah, who own the farm, have been here for a few years now and have really made it into a growing concern which is wonderful.  And I was greeted by the “guard” dog who definitely had to check me out.

Sage pear turkey 8 2014

Each year I try to do the turkey a bit differently from the last to keep it fresh so I thought I would do a sage and pear roast turkey with butter.

Sage pear turkey 1 2014

I softened 1/2 cup of butter and worked in a handful of chopped fresh sage.

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Luckily the turkey still fit into the roasting pan.  Not the lid though so I had to use tin foil to cover.  Murphy was really hoping I’d screw up somehow and the turkey would magically fly out of the pan and onto the floor.

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I’ll admit I don’t like this next step of mucking about with raw poultry.  I stuffed most of the butter under the skin and what little was left rubbed into the outside of the skin.  Season with salt and pepper.  I used white pepper because we ran out of regular pepper.

Sage pear turkey 4 2014

In the basin of the pan add a peeled pear, chopped, half a red onion, a few cloves of garlic, a handful of sage, and a few teaspoons of fresh thyme.  Add 1/2 cup of dry sherry, and a couple of cups of water.  Cover with tin foil or a lid and begin roasting at 325F/160C.  If the turkey is less than 15lbs, cook it 15 minutes per pound, if more than than, then drop it to 12 minutes.  This is per the Fanny Farmer cookbook.  So our turkey was about 3 1/2 hours.  An hour and a half in I basted.  When there is an hour to an hour and a half left remove the cover.  Normally I wait to the last 45 minutes but because I added so much butter I knew this wouldn’t dry out.

Sage pear turkey 5 2014

Now I love turkey skin and let me tell you this was amazing.  Crispy and full of flavour!  And because I put in all the ingredients for the gravy at the beginning it is just about made.  I put it on the boil and add dissolved corn flour a bit at a time to get the thickness I want.  Stir constantly.  I usually add a bit of Gravy Master but not too much because I want the subtle flavours of the pear and sage to come through.

Sage pear turkey 6 2014

We did our usual roast veg and I made the stuffing balls I did last year.  I also made a fabulous cranberry port sauce.  That I forgot to serve. Honestly, all that effort.  All well I’ll serve it at Christmas.

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Of course we had way too much food.  I always stress about making sure we have enough food though logically I know we’ll have leftovers taking over the fridge.  But it was wonderful to have family together for my favourite holiday.

Cranberry Raisin Sauce 6 2014

Snow Delay and Cranberry Raisin Sauce with Port Wine

Ah the best laid plans.  My favourite holiday, Thanksgiving, is tomorrow but Mother Nature has different plans for us.  Because we have family coming from different states we decided, to be safe, to have Thanksgiving on Friday after the storm has passed through and the roads are clear.

It’s our first proper snow storm of the season, I think the most we’ve had is a dusting, and we are looking at 8-12 inches when it’s all finished.  Problem is, despite most of us living here for years, a lot of people suddenly act like they have never seen a snow flake and don’t know how to drive in it!  So I am glad to be tucked away at home for the rest of the day.

Cranberry Raisin Sauce 7 2014

It is a very pretty storm with all the trees and shrubs outlined in snow.  Hopefully I’ll have a chance tomorrow to take some pictures.

Just because there is a snow delay doesn’t mean I don’t have a load of food prep ahead of me so I decided to make the cranberry sauce today.  I got my inspiration from Chef Mimi and her Cran-Cherry Chutsauce.  A fun name, isn’t it?  What I loved about it was that it had port wine in it.  Ooh, I thought, that’s a lovely idea.

My version is with raisins and a Late Bottled Vintage port.  This took less than 15 minutes to make and homemade is so much better than the canned sauce.

Cranberry Raisin Sauce 1 2014

In a small saucepan I added about 1 1/2 cup of whole cranberries and 1/3 of a cup of the port to start and brought that to a simmer.  Chop a quarter of a red onion.  Make sure the onion is finely chopped for this.

Cranberry Raisin Sauce 2 2014

Add 1/4 – 1/3 of a cup of seedless raisins.  I added more than that forgetting the raisins will swell up so I removed a bunch.  Then add the onion.

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Keep simmering until the cranberries start to burst.  You’ll hear a popping sound.  Once they have started to burst add brown sugar a tablespoon at a time.  All told I probably used 2 tablespoons added a bit at a time.

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If it starts to get too stiff add more port a bit at a time.  While this starts to thicken add a teaspoon of fresh thyme and stir well.  Once you get the consistency and flavour you desire remove from the heat.

Cranberry Raisin Sauce 6 2014

I love the silverware from the Victorian era.  This spoon was specifically made for jellies and cranberry sauce and has been in my family for several generations.  They certainly knew how to lay a table.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!