Swiss chard 4 2014

Swiss Chard and Diet Trends

I’m not one for hopping on the latest bandwagon for the diet fads.  Though I did try the South Beach diet once.  Wasn’t overly exciting and I felt it was limiting.  The latest is the Paleo diet.  I find it interesting and decided to get a cookbook that would explain it in more depth.  I’m not looking to jump in with both feet, we love bread too much, but I was surprised we follow a lot of the guidelines already.

The funny thing about trends is how people can go down the rabbit hole.  With the paleo there are a lot of people who think that it needs to be mostly meat based.  There is an article in the National Geographic that discusses this and they did point out that the hunting portion of the hunter/gathering could be seriously lacking and the women picked up the deficits with the foraging.

I am all for moderation though I have been wondering if I need to cut back even more on the grains as I’ve been struggling with inflammation this year and can’t seem to shake it.  With the exception of bread and occasional pasta there’s not much to cut.  But it wouldn’t hurt to expand the types of food we try to cook.  The substitutions are curious though.  I doubt there was coconut flour or xanthum gum and the like in the original paleo diet.

There was some lovely Swiss chard at the farmer’s market which I bought.  I was pleased the recipe I came up with fell in line with the paleo diet.

I’ve never had Swiss chard nor had I cooked with it before so I needed a quick lesson in what it was or how it compared to other leafy greens.  The farmer said it was similar to spinach in how it is cooked and if you cook the stems they needed to be cooked longer than the leaves.  The general opinion was to not eat it raw.

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It’s a gorgeous veg with the rainbow stalks and I was hoping the colour would hold up with cooking.  Not all veg does so my fingers were crossed.  Plus it seems a shame to waste the stalks!

I sliced up 5 rashers of streaky bacon and began rendering it in a skillet.  Meanwhile I chopped up the stalks, a small red onion, and a few cloves of garlic.  Once the bacon was half cooked add the onion and cook for a few minutes to soften then add the garlic and chopped stalks.

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Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock and a 1/4 cup of dry white wine.  Stir well.  Once the stocks have softened a bit add the chopped leaves of the chard.

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Season with salt and pepper and simmer until the leaves soften down.  I liked that the chard didn’t wilt down as much as spinach.  I don’t like it when it gets that wilted and mushy.

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I enjoyed this and was happy that we have another veg to add to our toolbox.  I’m limited with veg as a lot come across as bitter to me but I want to branch out and it was success on the first try!  We’ll definitely have this again and I’ll be playing round with the Swiss chard for different dishes.  Plus we’ll try growing it as well.

Lamb gyro 9 2014

Lamb Gyros and a Near Disaster

One of the blogs I follow, Cooking in Sens, was lamenting the lack of taste in lamb here in America because it is grain fed.  Fortunately I can get grass fed lamb in our area.  A local farmer rents pastures from various home owners and he rotates round with his crops and livestock.  It’s a great system and his lamb is always flavourful.

Don’t know why it popped into my head but for some reason I was in the mood to make gyros.  I’ve never made them and I haven’t had one in ages.  But I saw the lamb and thought now was a good as time as any!

The gyro bread is very easy to make and I found this recipe to use.

You will need:

1 cup hot but not boiling water

2 teaspoon of active or instant yeast

2 1/2 cups of flour

2 teaspoons of salt

1 tablespoon of olive oil

In the mixer add the water and yeast and let it proof for about 5 minutes.

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Add in the rest of the ingredients.

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Once the dough comes together put the mixer to medium speed to knead for about 8 minutes.  I found that the dough wasn’t kneading well enough in the mixer so I finished it by hand.  Knead until the dough comes together in a smooth ball.

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Cover and let the dough rise for an hour until it is doubled in size in a lightly greased bowl.

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Divide into 8 equal pieces on a lightly floured surface.  Cover with cling film while the pan heats to medium high.  Lightly spray with olive oil.

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Roll out the dough.  The recipe I followed said the pieces could be rolled out to 8-9 inches and be 1/4 inch thick.  Not really.  So I went with a compromise and tried to get in the middle of the measurements.  Place the first one into the pan and let cook for 30 seconds then turn over and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

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Then flip again and cook for another minute.  These have a tendency to blow up like balloons so gently press the air out as it cooks.  If you want them to be like pita then the air is ok but for this press the air out.  Once cooked keep covered with a tea towel.  Do this for all 8 pieces.

I made up the tzatziki sauce I’ve done before and then did up a marinade for the lamb using olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, rosemary, and salt and pepper.  I also sliced up some onion to grill.

And we come to the near disaster.  I got the onion on the grill with the lamb and put the extra marinade on the lamb.  Some of it dripped down and caught fire.  It was quite something.  As big a fire you can get without actually damaging the grill.  The temp gauge was well past 600F/320C.  The whole bottom of the grill was like the gates of hell.  So we removed the tank, closed the lid and let it burn out.  So I don’t have any pics of the grilling part of the meal.  So tomorrow it is on my list to scrub down the grill and get all the soot off of it.  Fortunately I didn’t ruin the lamb!  So all sorts of disasters were averted.

Once all the excitement had died down and the lamb was rested and sliced I began assembling the gyros.  Spread the tzatziki onto the gyro and layer the lamb.

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I added the onion, peppers, tomatoes, and lettuce.

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Wrap it up and enjoy!

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Preferably without any singeing of the eyebrows.  :)

Spicy ketchup 10 2014

Kicking Ketchup

When I was little I was told the corniest joke but it cracked me up and I still remember it.  A mama tomato and a baby tomato were walking along but baby tomato kept lagging behind.  So mama tomato stomped on baby tomato and yelled “Ketchup!”  Told you it was corny.  :)

It was high time I tried making my own ketchup.  Given that we are currently being overwhelmed with fresh tomatoes we had enough to make some.  With the experiment using the Epsom salt for the tomatoes this year I have some results.  We have a crazy amount of tomatoes this year and very little cracking which has been an issue in the previous years.  On the flip side the fruit are ripening in a weird way.  Not sure if it’s because the season is cooler than normal.  They fall off before they are ripe and then they are going off a lot faster so we are struggling to keep up with it.  I will try this again next year to see what is what.

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I did a bit of research on ketchup recipes and figured I could come up with my own recipe without too much trouble.  I estimate we had about 6-7 pounds of tomatoes which we chopped and added it to a large pot.

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In addition chop 1 large red onion, 1 medium white onion, a jalapeno, 2 Ring O Fire peppers, and 2 cloves of garlic.

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Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, 2-3 tsps of sea salt, 1-2 tsps of pepper, and a handful of celery leaves.  Bring to a simmer stirring well.

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Simmer until the sauce reduces by about a third.

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Let it cool and then use a hand blender to process the ingredients.  Press the sauce through a sieve to remove the remaining solids into a clean pot.

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Bring back up to a simmer.  Add a cup of red wine vinegar and 3/4 cup of brown sugar.  Simmer until the ketchup is reduce by another 1/3 and is the consistency you want.  I like it on the thicker side so it reduced a bit more than a 1/3.  If you want it thicker add a bit more brown sugar.

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Can in sterilised jars and process for 10 minutes.

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I am really pleased how this came out.  Certainly makes me want to whip up some burgers and fries!  Maybe some onion rings.  :)  This has a lovely heat finish to it.

Ooh, as I write this I got a little trophy thing saying it’s my two year anniversary!  Woot!  :)

Ale chutney 5 2014

Ale Chutney

One of the things I have on my list when we go home to England is getting a ploughman’s lunch at the Red Lion in Swanage.  It’s a pub that is still an English pub with the old beams, back garden, and amazing ciders on tap.  And they are willing to do their best at making a black velvet for me.  They also do a fabulous ploughman’s with ale chutney.  It’s one of my favourites.

As we’re getting into the season to make chutneys I thought I’d give it a go.  There really isn’t a lot of choice for ale chutney recipes but I figured I could make up my own.  It didn’t come out like the Red Lion’s but it came out really well with a bit more heat to mine.

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Chop about 350 grams of onion and 300 grams of apples.  This equals about 3 apples.

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Next chop 3 cloves of garlic, 60 g of dates, and 60 g of dried apricots.  In a large pot add the chopped ingredients with a 1/3-1/2 cup of malt vinegar and bring to a simmer.  As it begins to simmer add 1 heaped tbsp of mustard powder, 3 tsp of ground nutmeg, 1-2 tsp of sea salt, and pepper to taste.  Add 350-400g of demerara sugar or brown sugar and stir well.

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As it simmers add the zest of one lemon as well as the juice.  For me I found it to be a bit sweet so I added 2 tsp of red pepper flakes to balance the sweetness.

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Simmer until the apples have broken down and the chutney starts to thicken.  Remove from the heat and add 12 oz of ale or stout.  I used our oatmeal stout.  Bring it back up to a simmer to thicken. I found it wouldn’t thicken as much as I wanted so I added pectin rather than sugar which would make it sweeter.  The next time I make it I’ll back off a bit on the sugar and add more pectin.

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The great things about chutneys is you make it your own.  Adjust as needed to your tastes.  Perfect!  Now I just need to make a ploughman’s.  :)

PS, there must have been enough people disgruntled with the new wordpress site when writing posts as they are now giving people a choice to revert.  Excellent!  :)

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. 

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.  :)

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?

Eggs Benedict 7 2014

Eggs Benedict with Avocado

There was a break in the humidity this weekend which allowed us to take advantage of weather to do a lot of little chores in the garden.  I am a bit worried about the potatoes as the leaves are looking a worse for wear.  After some research I realised that we aren’t given enough nutrients for them.  Hopefully I can get that sorted this week. 

Still no sign of the parsnips.  I mean none sprouted.  I find it really strange so I’m wondering if the packet of seeds was any good.  Keeping fingers crossed we chased off the rabbits again this year.  We were dealing with squirrels and the rabbits snuck in.  One was bold.  I ran towards it making all sorts of noise and it just looked at me.  Guess I need to work on my technique. 

After several hours of puttering about I was in the mood for a hearty lunch.  I had an avocado and some homemade ciabatta bread so it was a small leap to eggs benedict.  Makes sense, right?

As delicious as this meal is there is some of juggling with the prep to get it all done at the same time.  I made a half recipe from the Fanny Farmer’s Cookbook as a 1/2 cup was enough.  Set up the ciabatta to be toasted and buttered, then set up the eggs to be poached

If you are new to hollandaise sauce definitely use a double boiler.  When I started I didn’t have one and so learned in a small saucepan. 

In the pan over very low heat whisk two small egg yolks.

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These need to be whisked but not so much you scramble them.  Add a tablespoon of lemon juice and slowly add 1/8lb of melted butter while stirring.

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Slowly add a tablespoon of hot water, dash of cayenne pepper, and salt to taste.  Stir for a minute or so until thickened.  

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Layer the bread, avocado, poached eggs, and the sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.

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This is such a treat when the egg is cut into and the yolk blends with the hollandaise sauce.

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After a hard morning working in the garden this was a great reward. 

Corn bacon 7 2014

I Love the Colours of Summer Food!

We were spoilt when we were in England with the summer weather. My kind of summer weather where I don’t feel like I’m about to melt and I start to wonder if there is room in the fridge for me.  My husband heard a report on the BBC talking about how muggy the weather was.  Ha! I’ll take their version over the mugginess we get here any day of the week.  It was fabulous sleeping weather.  Right now there is a wall of humidity waiting for us just outside the door.  Ugh.  Thank goodness for A/C.

Of course this time of year comfort food is right out the window.  At least the heavy stick to your ribs kind.  Yesterday I reached back to one of my earlier cookbooks that I got when I moved out on my own to make a corn dish that is packed with flavour but is light and easy to make.  I drew inspiration from “Skillet Suppers” by Andrea Chesman.  It was published back in 1994.  I haven’t opened it in years so it was time to dust it off.  This is my version of their Cajun Macque Choux.  Their version has evaporated milk and prawns.  I took out the milk and replaced the prawns with chicken.

I also love this dish for all the bright colours of the ingredients.

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This is a one skillet meal which makes for very easy clean up.  Chop about 5-6 slices of streaky bacon depending on how thick they are and cube a breast of chicken.

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Start cooking the bacon in the skillet to render the fat.  Once it’s about half way cooked add the chicken in. 

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Thinly slice a quarter of a red onion and add it to the bacon and chicken.  When the onion begins to soften add the chopped jalapeno and a cup of chopped pepper.  Any colour you wish.  Stir well as this cooks.

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Add about 10oz of frozen corn, 1/3 – 1/2 cup of chopped scallion, and a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme. Have this on medium heat.

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Once the corn is about half way cooked add a handful of chopped fresh basil and a chopped tomato.  I used about a cups worth of tomato.

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Season with salt, black pepper, and white pepper.  Stir well and cook until the corn and chicken are finished. 

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This is a very simple but flavourful dish.  I only used one jalapeno in this dish but you could use hotter peppers or more hot peppers if you wish.  My son and I liked the mild heat in this dish but my husband would have loved more omph.  :) 

 

Seared Tuna Avocado 5 2014

Seared Tuna in a Cup

Our son turns 10 soon, where does the time go?  But because we did the family celebrations this past Sunday he gets to enjoy a month of celebrations.  Needless to say he’s tickled pink.  But given our kids live in two households and then the various extended families their birthdays can go on for a few weeks.  It takes awhile to get it all in!

As a treat for the birthdays I did up my raspberry lemon cupcakes and decorated a few of them as minions.  You can’t go wrong with minions!

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In addition to the chicken salad on apple slices I wanted to do a seafood dish.  This dish would be great for a tapas night as well.  In a bowl add two avocados.

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Finely chop up a bit of red onion.

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Mash them together and add lime juice to taste, adobe seasoning, cilantro, and chili powder.   Season with salt and pepper to taste.  To keep it from browning add the avocado pits to the dish.  I made this a few hours ahead of time as this gets put together at time of serving.

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For the BBQ we had wood available to cook over.  I brought a grill pan to sear the tuna.  Season with salt and pepper then sear both sides.  This only takes a couple of minutes.

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Fill mini phyllo cups with the avocado and then top with the sliced tuna.

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It was an enjoyable day enjoying good food, beautiful weather, and listening to the kids playing and laughing.