Gorgonzola risotto 10 2015

Gorgonzola Risotto with Filet Mignon and Sundried Tomato Sauce

Last week I passed the three year mark for blogging.  One of the changes WordPress seems to have made is they now make it very low key.  Basically it’s “So, yeah, you are another year down, don’t forget to take out the trash” tone to it.  I liked how it was before where they gave you a great breakdown on how you are doing, what was a hit, what wasn’t.  I’m ok with a little woot, woot!

And with three years of recipes sometimes it’s hard to come up with something new.  Things have been somewhat calm this past week which would allow me more time to cook.  But then instead of writer’s block, I was having a bit of cooking block.  Broke that on Wednesday!  I wanted a special meal with flavours that wouldn’t be subtle.  We had a couple of filets in the freezer and some sundried tomatoes to use up.  Off to the store to get some gorgonzola and oyster mushrooms and I had a very good idea of what I wanted to do.

Prep the ingredients beforehand for everything.  To add a bit of crunch to the dish I toasted a third of a cup of pine nuts.  Do it in a dry skillet.  And keep an eye on it!  It can take awhile to toast but can burn quickly.

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Remove the pine nuts from the skillet and set aside.  In a larger skillet start the risotto.  This recipe is for 2-3 people.  First by melting 2 tablespoons of butter.  Add a finely chopped small shallot and 2 cloves of garlic.

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Add 1/2 a cup of risotto and saute for a minute or so.  Then add a tablespoon or so of champagne vinegar.  Stir well.

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This recipe needs about 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock.  This current batch I made was the best so far.  So much flavour!  Add about a 1/2 a cup at a time and allow the risotto to absorb the liquid.  At this point, in a small skillet, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter.  When it is hot add the filets to the skillet.  Make sure they are seasoned well with sea salt and pepper.  Baste with the butter as you cook.

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Finish the steak off in the oven at 350F/175C until the desired doneness.  Allow it to rest while you finish the meal. In the same skillet, add a bit more butter then saute some shallots, garlic, and sundried tomatoes.  Saute for a couple of minutes to soften the tomatoes then add a handful of the oyster mushrooms.

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Once the risotto is almost done add a third of a cup of crumbled gorgonzola and about the same of mascarpone cheese to the risotto.

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Mix well.  Just before serving add the pine nuts and a small handful of basil.

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Serve with the filet and top with the mushroom sundried tomato sauce.

Gorgonzola risotto 10 2015

There were a few strong flavours in this dish but it was balanced and delicious.  When I mentioned it to my daughter she said I could make it for them.  Anytime.  I think I can swing that.

PS.  So I started this post this morning but got interrupted by doctors appointments and things.  The whole day went pear shaped and I only just remembered I hadn’t finished this when we were walking the dogs.  My husband called it postus interruptus.  :)  As we are getting ready for date night I’ll be further behind on reading posts but I promise to catch up!

Tomato beef curry 5 2015

Tomato Garlic Beef Curry

There is a new Indian restaurant here in town.  We did make the mistake going on opening night.  We were getting cranky waiting for the food!  But once the food did arrive it was really good.  So I hope that they get things sorted because we would love to have a proper Indian restaurant in town.

I had ordered a spicy lamb curry with tomato, garlic and onion.  A slow cooked flavourful curry with a great balance of heat.  I had to recreate it.  I planned on doing that for my dad’s birthday but since plans got changed (for a good reason!) I decided to make it for the kids when they got back from FL as they both requested curry for dinner.  And they gave a thumbs up for adding spice.

Tomato beef curry 1 2015

This is a dish you want to slow cook, no short cuts on this on!  But other than the time it takes it is really simple.  Heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Season about a pound of stewing beef or lamb with sea salt and pepper.  Brown the meat on all sides.

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Coarsely chop an onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic.  Add to the skillet.  We have been growing Ring O Fire peppers in our garden so I harvested a couple for this.  Start off with one pepper.  It’s a lot easier to add more heat than remove it.  Again, seeds increase the heat so use your judgement.

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Saute for a few minutes to soften the onion then add a 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer.  Freshly grate about 1 – 2 inch/2.5-5cm piece of ginger, add to the skillet.  Chop a small handful of fresh cilantro.  Then season with sea salt and pepper, 1-2 teaspoons of garam masala, and a couple of tablespoons of red curry paste.

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Cover and keep it on a low simmer for a few hours.  Stir occasionally so it doesn’t catch on the bottom.  Half way through cooking test the heat and if you want more add more hot pepper.  Adjust for the curry seasoning with the paste if needed as well.  Meanwhile, my husband made up some incredible naan for us to enjoy.  We thought the naan would be enough so I didn’t do up any rice.

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I was really pleased with this, it tasted close to what I had at the restaurant.  It was hearty without being heavy.

Today is the first day of school for the kids.  Our daughter started high school and our son is starting middle school.  Wondering where time is going.  But to make it a fun day I’m making pavlova and and chicken cordon bleu.  Can’t wait to hear all the stories!

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce 6 2015

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce

Summer, at least in relation to school, is coming to an end.  Tomorrow my daughter has her orientation for high school tomorrow and my son has his meet and greet at the middle school.  So we’ve had fun the past couple of days playing games and letting them be lazy.  Because after today we are off and running with a new year. And back to doing the school lunches.  Though with the days starting earlier as they move up schools I’ll have to do them in the evenings but that’s ok.  I’ll survive.  :)

I’m just thrilled they are still into board games and such.  I hope they don’t outgrow that.  We have so much fun with family time.

Given that all that went on last week, quick meals were the thing.  This dish couldn’t be simpler.  But it has a lot of flavours and falls into the comfort food category.

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce 1 2015

It’s hard to go wrong when you have sundried tomatoes and garlic.  We also had on hand some apple smoked chicken sausages.  These are fully cooked so this was added at the end.  If you start with raw sausages, brown them first and set aside to cook off near the end.  In a skillet melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add a few cloves of garlic that have been chopped.  Also, add several chopped sundried tomatoes.

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Chop up a few mushrooms and slice the sausages and add that to the skillet.  One of the towns we went on our honeymoon was San Gimignano which is famous for the towers.  It also has very good white wine.  I wanted to use this for the sauce.

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Add about 1/2 a cup of a good white wine to the skillet. Bring to a simmer.

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While this is cooking prepare the spaghetti.  Near the end of cooking add 1/2 a cup of cream and 1/2 a cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Mix well.

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Add the spaghetti and a handful of fresh basil.  Toss well and serve.

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Quick and easy comfort food.  When it’s a tough week, it’s perfect.  In fact I did a similar dish at the end with tomatoes from our garden.  Seems to be my go to flavour profile!

Grilled Thai Steak 7 2015

Grilled Thai Steak and Ever So Grateful

It was a very long week last week but everything went well with my dad’s surgery.  Yesterday they discharged him from hospital and now he is recuperating at home.  We were all breathing a sigh of relief.  Still are if you want to know the truth.

So he’ll be causing trouble for a good long while now and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

As you can imagine I’m a bit backed up with blog posts and getting everything else back on track.  Kids are back at school this week so we’re winding down the summer the next couple of days.  Making sure they get back into the routine of things.

Last weekend I was in the mood for Thai flavours and decided to do a grilled steak with rice noodles.  We have had some success with growing fresh garlic this year and we also had ginger and cilantro on hand.

Grilled Thai Steak 1 2015

In a bowl mix 2 tablespoons peanut oil, 2 tablespoons oyster sauce, 2 tablespoons amino acid, 1 tablespoon lime juice, one to two teaspoons of fresh chopped cilantro, a large clove of garlic, finely chopped, and salt and pepper.  Add the steak to marinate for at least an hour.

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When it is time to cook, heat up a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil.  Add a few cloves of garlic, finely chopped, and a couple of scallions, chopped.  Saute until the garlic starts to soften.  Add a cayenne pepper.  When slicing use gloves, saves on burning skin.  We keep the seeds but some may find that too hot.  Saute for a few minutes.

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Add a cup of chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  I made the mistake of adding the rest of the veg too soon.  I like my veg on the crispy side.  If you like them soft then add the peppers and mushrooms when you add the stock.  Also add carrots.  I added a couple of tablespoons of green curry paste, a tablespoon of oyster sauce, a tablespoon of amino acids, and a splash of lime juice.  Continue to simmer.  As it cooks adjust the flavour to your liking.

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Grill the steak to medium rare.

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Take the leftover marinade and add it to the skillet and continue to simmer.  While the steak is resting add half a cup light coconut milk.  Add a few more teaspoons of freshly chopped cilantro at this stage as well.

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While this is being created cook rice noodles according to the package.  Toss the noodles in the sauce and serve.  Top with the steak and peanuts.

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I enjoyed this dish.  The heat was mild but you could always add more hot pepper as you cook.  Tonight we are doing Pad Thai for dinner.  Another one of our favourites!

Dad 1 2015

My Dad

From day one I’ve been a daddy’s girl.  Not the spoilt, get away with anything, daddy’s girl, far from it.  But we’ve always been buddies.  He just turned 70 and I had wanted to celebrate it in the proper way.  Our plan was to have our annual family get together this coming weekend.  Unfortunately we have had to cancel, well, postpone the festivities as he has to have major surgery this week.  It will be a good thing as it will get things fixed.  But I thought he should still be celebrated!  So in the spirit of the post I did about my mum I thought I would toast him as well.

Dad 1 2015

My dad always had time for his girls, something that has never changed.  Regardless of what he was doing, whether studying or working, we could be included.  It didn’t matter how long his day was he was always up for getting down on the floor and letting us use him as a jungle gym.  Many hours were spent doing row row your boat with his arms.  And pulling up his eye lids to see if he was still in there!

He’s had quite a journey in life.  He is a son of a coal miner who was the first person to go to college and continued on to get his masters degree.  When I went back to the UK for a year at university he came with me at the beginning to help me get settled.  We did a loop round the country which was a tour of his life.  He brought me to the house he was born in to show how far the family had came.  Imagine his surprise there was grass and the neighbourhood had come up a bit!  But I did get the point.

I am grateful that though he wanted us to have the world he didn’t fall into the trap of just handing it to us.  Mum and dad made sure we worked hard and never took anything for granted.  When he thought I was losing my way he wrote me a letter talking about how I was disappointing him.  I was having a bad attitude and being very angry about things.  Lashing out and hurting the ones I loved.  It was heartfelt and full of love but also a wake up call to me.  I still have that letter.

He has always seemed to know just what to say and how to be supportive.  For Senior Hooky Day I chose to go sailing with him instead of scarpering off somewhere.  It was a foggy day and it was great fun to just hang out and be outside.  He would show up to our American Football games in high school.  We had the worst team but once in awhile he would show up, bundled up to hear us play in the band.  On the rare occasion there was a touchdown he would actually hear the band play the school song.  It wasn’t often!

I get my twisted sense of humour from him.  You know the sort that gets you into trouble.  When we were in the UK there was an interview with Rowan Atkinson and he had a running gag of butt cheeks or kissing arse.  Something like that.  So the presenter would toss out words and he kept bringing it back to the gag.  They got to windscreen wipers and he just mimed kissing back and forth between butt cheeks.  I thought we were going to die.  Tears were streaming down our face.  Wish I could find that clip.  I can’t do it justice.

Of course there is the Championship of the Entire Civilised World for cribbage.  It’s quite stiff competition.  It’s just the two of us.  It’s a great way to just talk and joke about.

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I am so grateful to have a dad like my dad.  He has showed us how to be true to ourselves, set our standards high, and was a great example of what it means to respect women and treat them well.  He and my mum are a great example of what type of relationship we should be looking for.  I was lucky that I have that as well with my husband.  Dad wasn’t pleased when I wasn’t happy or treated right in past relationships.  It was a great relief, I think, to my dad when I met my husband.  One, he fits right in with my family and two, he makes me happy.

While I’m nervous about the surgery, I know it is a good thing.  It will get him healthy and ensures we have years still to be goofy, make more family memories, and to well, have my dad around.  Because he is pretty neat in my book.

Black currant jam 4 2015

Black Currant Blueberry Jam and Up Against the House

House 1 me 0.  Actually the score is probably more skewed than that if we look at the entire time I’ve lived here.  But this week I am definitely on the losing end!  And it’s all my fault.  Which is really annoying.

It’s time to redo the front porch so we began the project this past Sunday.  Parts of the old boards were being very stubborn in coming loose.  I tried pounding them up with a crow bar.  Really not the thing to do.  I reinjured my injury from the fall in January.  Each day I’ve brought the computer in bed with me in hopes I could sit up long enough to do a blog post.  Finally I can do it today.  Cooking this week has been pretty basic as well.  But I’m properly on the mend so I can blog!  Plus we need to do more on the porch this weekend.  I have a cunning plan as they say to not screw my back up again.  I feel optimistic.

I made this jam a couple of weeks ago and talked about it on the radio show.  I was inspired by a jam I had in France.  And we had a bumper crop of black currants so I had to do something with them all!  We froze quite a bit for later crumbles.  I wanted a jam that wasn’t overly sweet so I could easily use it for savory dishes as well.

Black currant jam 1 2015

I like to keep my jams on the rustic side, it’s less fussy that way.  In a saucepan put in equal amounts of black currants and blueberries.

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On medium low heat bring the berries to a simmer.  Once enough liquid has been released from the berries turn up the heat a bit to continue a high simmer.  To start I added 1/2 cup of white sugar and incorporated it into the berries.  Then I added 1/2 a cup of brown sugar.  The tricky bit with black currants is that they are very tart.  But you don’t want to add so much sugar that the jam becomes stiff.  To offset this I added maple syrup.  Add a bit of a time until the jam has thickened.

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Sorry about the quality of that pic!  Couldn’t use a tripod at this step!  Remove from the heat and can the jam.  I served this with homemade crusty bread and stinky French cheese.  The creaminess of the cheese balanced well with the tart jam.

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Fingers crossed the porch doesn’t defeat me tomorrow!

Grilled tarragon chicken 4 2015

Grilled Tarragon Chicken Salad and Radio Show

Every once in awhile you have to go outside of your comfort zone.  I had the opportunity to do that yesterday.  I’ve mentioned Luca, a chef in town and a friend of mine, who does cooking shows.  You might remember my daughter had a chance to do a show with him.

He also does a weekly radio show on our local talk radio with Dan Mitchell talking about cooking and he brings bloggers, chefs, etc on as guests.  He invited me to join him.  I had an absolute blast doing this. I was nervous about doing it but I didn’t want to miss this opportunity to do something new.

Here is the podcast if you would like a listen.  But please, I know I sound American.  Every time it comes up that I’m English, without fail, I get “but you don’t sound English”.  That bothers me.  Like there is a doubt of who I am.  I came over very young and didn’t go back again until I was an adult.  The accent doesn’t start coming out much until I’m back in the UK.  It is what it is!  Other than that I do hope you enjoy the podcast.

And of course I had to show up with food.  But because the show was in the morning and there isn’t a kitchen so it had to be something I could serve cold.

I decided to do grilled chicken with tarragon.  For dinner I did it as a salad and for the show I did it as lettuce wraps.

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For the marinade I finely chopped a few cloves of garlic and a handful of tarragon.  Mix it with equal parts white wine and olive oil.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Make sure it is mixed well and then add the chicken to marinade for at least an hour.

Grilled tarragon chicken 2 2015Grill the chicken and let it cool.  Meanwhile toast half a cup of pinenuts in a dry skillet.  You want to pay attention as you are doing this. The nuts can easily burn.  Keep the pinenuts moving in the skillet as you toast them.

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Once they are golden remove and set aside.  I did try to do a wine vinaigrette but it just didn’t have any brightness to it.  So I did up a tarragon lemon dressing instead.  Do two parts olive oil to one part lemon juice.  Add a bit of tarragon and season with sea salt and pepper.  Shake it up.

To assemble, lay out the lettuce leaves and layer with the chicken, veg of your choice, and the pine nuts.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad and top with creme fraiche.

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It is very easy to convert it to wraps.  Just put less into each piece and wrap it up!  Perfect for a warm summer day.  As I said this was a fantastic experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  :)

Croque Monsieur 9 2015

Croque Monsieur, Fun Food for the Kids

In some of the tourist places we visited in France I came across croque monsieur.  An inside out grilled cheese sandwich!  The kids tried it and thought it was fun.

I loved the inspiration I got while over there.  So much good food and ingredients.  I got a kick out of this vending machine we found:

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I mean how cool is this idea?  Fresh veg, fruit, and homemade soups.  Don’t get me wrong I loved the Cadbury vending machines when I lived in London but still, this was refreshing to see.  Much better than these fish sticks I found:

Croque Monsieur 10 2015

How sad.

There are several recipes for croque monsieur, all pretty similar.  I used Ina Garten’s from Barefoot in Paris as a guide.  I used our sourdough bread for this.  I really didn’t want to use the soft storebought white bread she recommends.  I just don’t like that stuff!  I needed to make 4 sandwiches so I toasted the bread ahead of time.  Also, prep 1/2 cup of parmesan and 1/2 cup of jarlsberg and set aside.

In a small saucepan melt 2 tablespoons of butter then add 3 tablespoons of flour to the butter.

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Keep it on the heat and continue whisking to cook the flour.  You don’t want the mixture to burn.

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Her recipe called for 2 cups of milk but I felt that was way too much.  I decided to go with 1 1/2 cups of milk.  We still had too much sauce leftover.  Gradually add the milk to the flour mixture, again whisking the whole time to work out the lumps.

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With the heat on medium bring the mixture to a near boil.  You don’t want to have it actually boil but you need it hot enough to thicken.  Keep stirring to prevent the milk from scorching on the bottom.  Once the sauce thickens remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese.  Dust the top with nutmeg and season with sea salt and pepper.

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Spread stone ground mustard of your choice onto half the slices of the toast.  Add slices of ham and top with the other slices of bread.  Then spoon on the sauce.  Top with more jarlsberg cheese.

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Broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.  Serve with a side salad.

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I have to say as crazy as this dish sounded to me it was a lot of fun to eat and it was delicious.

BBQ Burgers 4 2015

BBQ Burgers and Family Time

Every summer there is nearly a month when the kids are gone.  A bit hard on the parents but it means the kids are off on adventures.  They do a two week overnight camp and then we usually get them for a couple of days then they are off to Florida to see grandparents with their mother and stepfather.

While we get a break from the usual back and forth of getting the kids round we miss them like crazy.  We picked them up from camp Friday evening and they had so many stories to tell.  It was non stop and it was fabulous.  But they were looking forward to home cooked food.

Our daughter must have missed the kitchen as she made breakfast each morning this weekend and baked cookies.  Yesterday morning she kicked us out and set the table with flowers and candles.  She really loves going all out.

When we picked them up they mentioned they were sick of cheeseburgers.  Shoot, as that was what I was making for last night!  Our daughter said oh we love your burgers so that’s ok.  Phew!

It was time for something different so I thought I would make BBQ burgers.  Our poblanos are coming in and I wanted to use them.  Our garden has been a struggle this year but our peppers are doing us proud.  I see a lot of hot pepper jelly in our future.  Unfortunately we’ve used up all our Peach BBQ sauce I had made so I had to use, gasp, store bought.  Peaches are showing up in the shops now so it is on my list to make another batch.

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I had a pound of ground beef which is more than enough for the four of us.  The only issue is it’s impossible to find decent buns that aren’t enormous.  So the buns tend to dwarf the burger.  I think a quarter pound of meat is more than enough but I think I’m in the minority in this country.  My husband and I went without the bun.  In a bowl add the meat.  Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic and add that with a few teaspoons of fresh thyme.  I didn’t have enough cheddar to do slices on top but I did have enough to grate for the actual burger.  The amount I added was about a quarter of the meat in volume.  Then add a few tablespoons of BBQ.  Mix well and form into patties.  Set aside.  Cook up several rashers of streaky bacon and set that aside as well.

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My husband brought home some fresh corn yesterday.  So exciting!  I love having them grilled.  Very easy to do, just soak for about 20 minutes in water.  Then grill for 5 minutes on each side until cooked through.  When these were halfway cooked I added the burgers.

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Once you flip them add sliced onion that have been prepped with olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and pepper.  Add the poblanos after deseeding them.  You want the peppers to blister a little but don’t go crazy.  You want to grill the onions so they have the grill marks but aren’t burnt. When the burgers are almost done add slices of cheddar or jarlsberg to the burgers to melt.

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Layer with BBQ sauce, bacon, onion, and pepper.  Butter up that corn and enjoy!  My husband did up some sweet potato and regular potato chips (fries) to round out the meal.  I was stuffed.  I think a bun would have sent me over the edge.  I didn’t even have room for ice cream!

Bacon stuffed mushrooms 6 2015

Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms and Cruel Cowardice

It’s hard not to be distressed by the capacity of some people to be heartless.  Don’t get me wrong there is a lot of good in this world.  People who have compassion and work hard to bring light to those that need it.  But there is a side of humanity that seems desperate to cause harm.  There is a endless list of horrors.  It gets overwhelming.

Such a representation of that this week was the senseless killing of Cecil.  In the scheme of things it’s a lion, there are much deeper issues of children in this world not safe, women not safe, people starving.  But it is indicative people lacking the basic compassion of living things.  It takes a special kind arrogance and cowardice to travel to the other side of the world, pay thousands, and then to bait an animal to give it a slow death.

I get the need for hunting in turns of population control.  Deer can face slow and painful death with overpopulation in winter.  And I get people hunting for food.  In our area there are a lot of families who need to put food on the table.  But to hunt so you can decorate your wall?  I find that disgusting.  I do hope the outrage keeps at its current level.  We need to stop the destroying of this earth’s gifts and resources.

This just really fired me up.  Thank you for letting me say my piece and I’ll get on with the usual program of food!

Due to the dietary needs of my various family members I always try to come up with ideas of tasty dishes that everyone can eat.  I thought repurposing a crostini into stuffed mushrooms would be fun.

Bacon stuffed mushrooms 1 2015

We learned how to make this bacon crostini in Tuscany on our honeymoon.  For this recipe I added onion to it.  I finely chopped a clove of garlic, half a small onion, and a bit of rosemary.  Then chop up half the mushroom stems.

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Chop up 3 rashers of streaky bacon and begin to render it in a small skillet.  After a few minutes add the onion.

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After the onion has softened a bit add the garlic, rosemary, and mushroom to the skillet.

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Keep cooking until the bacon starts to crisp a bit.  Add a few splashes of white balsamic vinegar.  Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 375F/190C.  Remove the bacon mixture from the heat and grate fresh parmesan over it and mix well.  Stuff the mushrooms and grate more parmesan over it.

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Bake until the mushrooms are cooked.  About 10 minutes or so.  While it is baking make up the salad if you are having this as a main meal.

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Of course I put more fresh parmesan on.  I can’t resist the stuff!  And it’s gluten free.  :)