The Sinfulness of Chocolate 

Chocolate is a veg, right?  I mean it starts as a plant so it should count as part of our five a day.  Just like wine is fruit because it comes from grapes.  Hands up from those that are with me on this.  Anyone?

Because I completely forgot to do a birthday cake for our daughter earlier in the year I decided to make up for it when we celebrated a bunch of family birthdays a few weeks ago.  You know, she never said a word.  Once the lightbulb went off I felt really guilty.  A familiar feeling, I’m sure, for many parents.  Our daughter is a massive fan of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate I decided to go for a chocolate cake with ganache and raspberries.  Unsurprisingly, she was on board with this idea.

After doing a bit of research online and realising the recipes are pretty basic, making me wonder why I haven’t made it before, I used this guide from Add a Pinch to create my dessert.  I also made a chocolate cake as a base for this.  The difference between the glaze and the filling are the ratio between the cream and chocolate.  This is not a low calorie treat!


I did the filling first.  In a saucepan, gently heat a 1 cup/8oz of heavy or double cream with 2 tablespoons/1oz of butter.  Don’t boil or scald but heat until the butter is melted.


In a large bowl add 2 cups/11oz of white chocolate.  Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted and everything has blended together.  If you would like you can also add a couple of tablespoons of flavouring, I didn’t to this stage because of the other flavours that I was putting together.  


Chill until it has a thick spreadable consistency.  Spread on the first layer of the cake and add a layer of fresh raspberries.


For the glaze, redo the cream and butter.  Pour it over a cup/6oz of dark chocolate along with 2 tablespoons/1-2oz of spiced rum and a pinch of salt.  Mix well.  This will be very liquid so it will need to be chilled a bit so it doesn’t completely run off the cake when you pour it on.  


Top with more fresh raspberries and serve.  I have to say this was a hit.  This will definitely be made again!

Danish Comfort Food with Frikadeller

Our experience with our Danish exchange student is coming to an end, it went by too quickly, but overall it’s been a wonderful experience.  When she first arrived at our home I was more than ready to explore Danish food.  She is not a fan!  What?!?  But I had plans!  I wasn’t ready to give up.

I went through the various recipes I had pinned with her and chose to try Frikadeller which are Danish meatballs.  These can been eaten stand alone or as part of the Smørrebrød, which are open faced sandwiches.  This past weekend we had a large family get together and because of all the different dietary needs I thought it would be perfect to do a meal of Smørrebrød.  I originally made the meatballs at the beginning of her stay with us.  It was part of a light supper with BLTs and both “sandwiches” used romaine lettuce as the bread.

I found a recipe for Frikadeller on Dieplicious.com that our exchange student said was authentic.  These are very easy to put together though it is very different from most meatballs I’ve made.  It’s a very wet mixture.

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Use a large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon to blend everything together.  Start with a pound/500 grams of ground pork and 1 1/2 teaspoons of coarse sea salt.  The reason you need a large mixing bowl is the pork is very slippery and trying to get the salt well blended is tricky.  Because you are going to add milk the better blended the salt the better the milk will incorporate.

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Next add 3/4 cup/150 grams of onion, finely chopped.  Mix well.  Add the rest of the ingredients, which are 3/4 cup/85 grams of oats,  2 tablespoons of flour, 1 egg, not quite 3/4 cup/150 ml of milk.

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Season with fresh oregano and ground pepper.  This is a very sticky mixture but hand shape the meatballs in an egg shape.  To fry you can use oil or butter but because I had cooked up streaky bacon I chose to fry the meatballs in bacon fat.

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To serve I mixed up plain yoghurt with fresh oregano, sea salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  Spread that on the lettuce, top with the meatballs and pickles.

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At dinner I was proud of myself for giving her a taste of home, then she mentioned each host family had chosen to do a version of Frikadeller for her.  So much for pride!  She did love my version and all of us really enjoyed this dish.  I think we will continue to make this.

The Cowards Will Never Win

It’s been another trying few weeks for Britain.  The startling and crazy politics aside, I mean really, the DUP?  But two cities close to my heart were once again cruelly attacked by  cowards.  What else can you call them?  It’s bad enough if you target fellow man but to target children?  No, you are a coward.

We were in London when the attacks happened in Manchester.  Once again I was taken and impressed with the spirit of the people coming together, despite what an orange useless so called leader likes to spout on stuff he doesn’t understand.  He doesn’t get what the people of Britain are made of.  We’re very good at getting back up again, pulling up the boot straps, and coming together with humour, strength, and acts of kindness.

So while this terrible problem needs to be solved, preferably sooner rather than later, these cowards need to know they aren’t ever going to win.

When we were in London we walked miles and miles visiting places I used to go when I lived there and discovering new sights.  I took my husband to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.  I used to go years ago.  I love how people can just have a soap box to talk about whatever they want as long as it doesn’t incite hate or violence.

It was only just starting when we arrived, just one guy talking about his Christian beliefs.    He did have a sense of humour about it.  There was a lively debate between him and a gentleman who was Muslim.  I couldn’t hear too much what he was saying but all of a sudden the man holding court said “but you don’t want 4 wives, you’d have 4 mother in laws!”  Given that most obviously don’t have 4 wives, I do wonder what point was being brought up.

While this was going on a man came up to us asking if he could talk to us.  Nice enough but it wasn’t too long before we realised he was a bit out there.  He had some wild ideas about saving the earth and that we shouldn’t pollute, as he was rolling cigarettes.  He also talked about how the policeman was rude trying to arrest him for riding his bicycle on the M5.  He moved on to how we should all love each other which is when I got a bit naughty and suggested he talk to the guy above as he was talking about love as well.

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And so he did!  Much to the delight of the crowd.  Which begs the question why some choose to just chant and sing to get their message across.

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I don’t think their message is getting out, or maybe it is.  Who knows?

It was a gorgeous day and as we were walking through the park, for a laugh, I called to a squirrel.  Wouldn’t you know, it came running!  I think people need to stop feeding the animals!

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We also had a bit of fun with celebrity sightings on this trip.  When we arrived in the UK, James Blunt walked by me with his guitar, not a bad start.  As we were walking through Leicester Sq we came upon the theatre for “Don Juan in Soho” starring David Tennant.  We quickly got tickets.  It was hilarious and not for children!

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Because we queued politely, we missed out on getting an autograph.  I might have to rethink that!  But while we were sitting in the theatre I suddenly realised Tom Hollander was 10 feet away.  I stayed perfectly calm.  Well most of me, my left arm was hitting my husband frantically so he could look over.  It wasn’t long before I was tapping him again because 4 feet away Steven Moffat was sitting there!  Needless to say it was a fun night.

Luck would have it, two of my cousins arrived in London just before we left and my younger cousin had never been to London before.  It was a great treat giving her a bit of a walking tour at night, introducing her to some of the famous sites.  How wonderful to see London through fresh eyes.

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We did swing by the Lego store, where I am envious of those who have the job of building this:

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We walked through the War Rooms of Churchill and through the area filled with monuments and symbols of strength and perseverance.

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As I said, the cowards will never overcome the spirit and the strength of the people.

Scallops in the Shell

Does anyone have the cure for jet lag?  As we get older it seems to keep a hold on us longer and longer.  It didn’t help we came back to dreary rain.  Good for the garden, not so good at getting us going!  I do hope it means our garden will do better than it did last year.  Last year was a very dusty growing season.

Being back in the UK was wonderful, we had incredible weather and did loads of walking.  We had to walk off all the lovely meals my mother-in-law cooked up!  Of course we like giving her a break from cooking, she runs a B & B so she welcomes the break!  Last year we did a curry night as my father-in-law is a big fan but my MIL isn’t so this time round we did a tapas night.  Which I love doing!  So off we went to the shops to get ingredients.

Aside from the usual dishes that are easy to throw together I found some scallops on the shell, which is near impossible to get stateside, never mind getting scallops with the coral still attached.  So I couldn’t pass this up.

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Heat up the broiler/griller to medium.  Season the scallops with sea salt and pepper, thyme, olive oil, and rosé wine.  I had some of the wine from our France trip and while it turns out it’s not a favourite of mine I knew it would work well with this dish.

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Broil/grill until the scallops are cooked.  Be careful not to overcook the scallops, you still want it tender.  This will only take a couple of minutes.

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Serve on the shell.  This is a fun and quick dish to make, I just wish I could get this round here! It was a great night with good food, good company, and good wine.

Life is Bloomin’ Good….

We are in the midst of enjoying a lovely holiday back in the U.K.  A much needed holiday but I haven’t done much cooking.  Instead we’ve been enjoying the diesel gala and walking our pins off.  The weather has been absolutely wonderful and I’ve taken the opportunity to indulge in a bit of photography with my SLR.  

With the gala there were some pretty sweet setups with cameras, my husband teased me saying I had lens envy.  😊.  True enough!  Though this post is a quick one to share some photos I took of flowers, I will be doing a post on the gala.  


The cat is a neighbourhood cat that is just desperate for belly rubs.  Soft thing.  Tomorrow we’re popping over to France by ferry. We’re in need of wine.

Caprese Stuffed Chicken

Battle with the garden has commenced.  We may be winning but I’m not sure yet.  I find it ironic that the stuff we don’t want growing in the garden are the toughest to get rid of.  They are tenacious.  Our grass never grows as well on the lawn as it does in the flower beds.

Some of it is our own doing and not understanding how invasive something can be.  A few years ago, because we like to brew beer, we planted hops.  One was very lackluster while the other is determined to take over the world.  The first season or so wasn’t too bad, the hop plant just grew like gangbusters.  Hops can grow a foot a day, which is crazy.   But last year the hops broke the lattice that sort of held them and crawled across the rest of the flower bed.  It wasn’t pretty.

This year we’re rethinking the hops.  Not to get rid of them but we definitely need to put them elsewhere.  In the meantime we are being brutal with them.  The root system snakes everywhere under the soil.  We were taken aback by the length and thickness of those suckers. They were like tree roots.  I have a feeling there will be more battles with the hops.

Along with the work in the garden that comes with the warmer weather, the lighter dinners start up again.  Which I am very ready for!

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Recently I thought it would be fun to do a pan seared caprese stuffed chicken over salad. In a skillet heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil.  Add about a cup of sliced sun dried tomatoes and cook on low to medium heat for a few minutes.  Finely chop 3-5 cloves of garlic, depending on size, and add to the skillet.

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Saute for several minutes until the garlic is nearly cooked and then toss in a handful of shredded fresh basil and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar.

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Slice 4 chicken breasts 3/4 the way through lengthwise.  Evenly distribute the caprese mix between the chicken breasts.  Season with sea salt and pepper and brown on both sides.

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Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.  Remove the chicken from the skillet and add fresh mozzarella cheese inside the chicken and bake until the chicken is cooked through.

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Serve on top of a salad.  A dish light enough for the warm weather but gives you enough energy to conquer the garden.  Which we definitely need!

 

Catching Up With a Dublin Coddle

This a long over due post!  I cooked this meal for St Patrick’s Day weekend.  So yes, I’m behind in my posts.  Tax season is over once more and I’ve been doing a lot of catching up and getting things organised.  It was so nice to have time to be outside and see sunlight.  My office is windowless and joyless.

Since I last posted we’ve been enjoying hosting our exchange student from Denmark.  Who isn’t a fan of Danish food.  What are the chances!?  She loves Italian food but is willing to have me cook some Danish food here and there.  She also fits in at our house very well.  Very smart and a great sense of humour.  It’s turning out to be a fabulous experience for all of us.

Our student arrived on St Patrick’s Day weekend and I wanted share some of our traditions.  But I also needed something that was easy to put together because I was working 6 days a week.  The Dublin Coddle fit the bill.

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Of course I changed the way to do it a bit.  Mainly to make this even easier and quicker to make.  If you are inclined you can cook the bacon prior to assembling but it also works if you don’t.

Preheat the oven to 425F/220C.

In an oven proof dish begin layering potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic, all thinly sliced.

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Then layer thinly sliced sausages and bacon.  I chose chorizo sausage for a bit of heat.  Sprinkle with fresh parsley.

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Repeat the layers.  Add beef or vegetable broth.  At this point you can have it more stew like or not.  I wanted it to have a more soup consistency so I added about 4 cups/32 oz of vegetable broth.

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Cover and bake until the vegetables soften.  Remove from the oven and grate fresh cheddar cheese over the dish.  Leave the cover off and bake until the top browns.Dublin coddle 5 2017

Of course I completely forgot to bake the soda bread to go with this.  Only remembered as I was serving the meal.  That would have been a nice pairing.

Now, if you don’t mind, I have a lot of blogs to catch up on.  🙂

 

 

Southwestern Turkey Burgers

Winter is back with a vengeance!  Mother nature does like to mess with us.  Offices were closed so I got a snow day.  It was lovely to watch the snow come down in the comfort of home.  It also allowed me to catch up with some projects I’m working on.  There is a possibility I might have to have hand surgery soon so all my knitting and crocheting projects need to get done.  Which might guarantee I won’t need surgery!  Fingers crossed.

We are also getting ready for our exchange student to come this weekend.  She has actually been here since August but they way they do it now is the student spends three months with a host family then moves on to another one.  So now it’s our turn. She is from Denmark and I’m looking forward to trying out recipes from there.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  I am looking into the Danish rye breads to give that a go.

Before winter returned we had some fabulous warm weather which meant lighter meals.  I do miss salads.  I thought it would be fun to do turkey burgers, not realising how mushy the ground turkey can be to work with.  Very sticky!  But if you can get past that you can have a great meal.

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To make the burgers I mixed a pound of ground turkey meat with half a cup of freshly grated cheddar cheese, a few splashes of hot sauce, 1-2 tablespoons of chili powder, and a teaspoon of ground cumin.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Mix and form into burgers.  Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Brown both sides.

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Finish off in the oven at 350F/175C.  Finely chop scallions, peppers, garlic, and mushrooms.  Add them to the skillet with 1-2 cups of frozen corn.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of chili powder, a teaspoon of ground cumin, 1-2 tablespoons of lime juice, sea salt and pepper, finish with fresh cilantro.

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As the burgers finish cooking top with pepper jack cheese to melt.  Serve over mixed lettuce greens and top with the veg mix.  We also cooked up some sweet potato fries.

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An easy dinner to put together when you want loads of flavour on a busy night.

 

 

 

Lemon and Garlic Chicken and the Importance of Having a Great Team

If you have the bad luck of falling and injuring yourself over the years more than once it is very important you don’t wait years to fix yourself.  If I could go back in time I would do so many things differently.  Aside from trying to avoid falling in the first place I would get help.

Which means finding a great team and I have been very lucky in that respect.  I have Pam, my exercise guru, who is very knowledgeable with body mechanics and takes the time to make sure those of us in her pilates and TRX aren’t doing nutty things with our alignment.   I have Christine, who is an amazing massage therapist that battles my knots and tension.  And Maria, my physical therapist, spent nearly two years helping me get strong and healed.  I just finished my last appointment with her and fingers crossed I don’t do anything stupid and lands me back in PT!

Of course I’m seriously grateful that my husband supported me through all this.  I really couldn’t have done it without him.  There have been some painful and tough times and he never wavered.  He’s my rock.

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For Christmas my dad found some really cool cookery books for us.  The one for my daughter is called “150 Mediterranean Recipes” by Jacqueline Clark & Joanna Farrow.  Loads of delicious recipes in the book and I chose to make the Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Garlic.   I mostly followed it so here is my version.

Prep the lemon by peeling it and then thinly slicing it.  Set aside.

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In a small saucepan bring to a simmer about 14oz of chicken stock.  Add 8-10 garlic cloves cut in half.  Simmer while you cook the chicken thighs.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet.

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Season 4 chicken thighs with sea salt and pepper and begin to brown the chicken.  While the chicken is cooking, preheat the oven to 375F/190C.

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Once browned, transfer to a baking dish.  Spoon out the garlic from the stock and add it to the baking dish along with the lemon slices.  Set aside.  Add 2 tablespoons of flour or corn flour to the skillet, use a whisk to scrape up the browned bits of the chicken.  Cook for a minute or so to cook the flour.  Then add 6oz of dry white wine.  Keep stirring constantly.  Pour in the stock.

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Stir until the sauce thickens.

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Add the sauce to the baking dish and bake until the chicken is cooked through.  Meanwhile cook up some rice pilaf.

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Once the chicken is cooked, top the rice with a chicken thigh and pour sauce over the dish. Add some fresh chopped parsley and voila!  Dinner is served.

I look forward to trying more recipes from the books we were given. 🙂

Lemon Leek Pork and Not So Sweet 16

Milestones are supposed to be fun and celebrated.  Our daughter turned 16 this past weekend and there were a few fun things planned.  Unfortunately the plague is still upon this household!  Poor thing woke up on her birthday with the stomach bug.  Day canceled!  Of all days.  We’ll have to do a proper celebration when we have them back again.

That is if it doesn’t keep going round this house.  I had it last week and now my poor husband is knocked down with it.  The puppies are keeping him company, too bad their licking isn’t the cure!

With all the germs, not a lot of cooking is going on so creating new dishes has been put on the back burner.

I did make this dish a few weeks ago on one of my few days off when I had some boneless pork ribs and leeks on hand.

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For this dish, I sliced the pork ribs lengthwise and browned them in butter in a large skillet.

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Once both sides have been browned remove the pork and cook off in the oven at 350F/175C to cook off.  Just make sure you don’t overcook the pork.  Chop about a cup and a half of oyster mushrooms (12oz) and saute them in the butter.  Cook until they start to brown.  As they brown add a few cloves of garlic that are finely chopped.

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Slice about half a cup/4oz of leeks and add to the skillet.  As that cooks add about two tablespoons of lemon juice.

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Next add 8-12 oz of cream and about 1/2 a cup/4oz of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Toss in cooked spaghetti and serve with the pork.

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It goes without saying this would be great with a nice white wine and some garlic bread.

Fingers crossed we can all get germ free and take our daughter out to celebrate.  🙂